UAE gets 10/10 for 'strong and stable economy' in world rankings

Brand Finance's soft power rankings show Gulf states gaining in global standing

Analysts linked the UAE's growing global influence to its hosting of the Cop28 climate summit in Dubai. EPA
Powered by automated translation

The UAE is viewed as the world’s most “strong and stable economy”, boosting its standing in the leading global soft power ranking, it was revealed on Thursday.

Saudi Arabia is also enjoying “stronger perceptions” after vast investment in football and tourism.

Israel lost ground in the annual “soft power” ranking, which measures the strength of a nation’s brand and its ability to influence others by persuasion rather than force of arms.

Gulf nations are the biggest climbers since the index, unveiled in London on Thursday, was launched in 2020 by consultancy Brand Finance.

The UAE came 10th for the second year in a row in an expanded list now covering all 193 UN members. The US remained top.

"Global appreciation for the UAE is strengthening every day," said Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, who thanked government officials for their work to develop the nation.

"Thousands of work teams in all fields continue day and night to achieve all of this. Our appreciation to everyone."

The UAE received a 10/10 score for “strong and stable economy”, ranking first in that category, and scored highly for future growth potential and generosity. Its score of 59.7 out of 100 was up compared to last year.

In a separate ranking of which countries could most be recommended as a place to invest, work, study, visit or buy products, the UAE was the strongest Middle East performer on all five counts.

"Being a strong and stable economy is the most important factor," said Brand Finance's chief executive David Haigh. "It's a very important measure in terms of reputation and influence."

Analysts also highlighted the UAE’s hosting of the Cop28 climate talks last year, which put it in a global spotlight.

Saudi Arabia rose one place to 18th and is “seeing stronger perceptions following significant investments in tourism and football”, the report found.

Qatar was 21st and Turkey 25th, with Ankara credited with using its soft power to try to mediate in regional conflicts.

The rising soft power of Gulf nations reflects higher scores in the ‘influence and reputation’, ‘international relations’ and ‘business and trade’ categories.

It follows “conscious efforts to grow their soft power through nation branding projects, diplomatic initiatives and by hosting major events”, analysts said.

At a time of conflict and tense international relations, a robust economy is of ever greater value to a country’s brand, the report found.

“This trend explains the continued dominance of the world’s largest economies like the US and China, as well as smaller developed economies like Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates at the top of the ranking,” it said.

Hard and soft power

Nations wielding hard military might saw a drop in their soft power. Russia slipped three places to 16th, while Israel has fallen five spots to 32nd, as the wars of Ukraine and Gaza continue.

The ranking shows the importance of a “strategic approach to nation branding” where defence spending tends to have more priority, said Mr Haigh.

“While global hard power expenditure was a record $2.2 trillion in 2023 and expected to rise in 2024, we estimate that the combined spending by nation brands on communications is less than $1 billion,” he said.

The rankings are based on a survey of about 170,000 people from more than 100 countries.

The US and Britain held their positions as the top two, while China jumped to third.

American standing has recovered during Joe Biden’s presidency after a “serious erosion” in Donald Trump’s term, Mr Haigh said.

The US is top of the league on nine counts, including its influence on science and entertainment, but is viewed as less safe and friendly than before.

November’s expected Trump-Biden rematch “will be momentous in terms of future direction for the US and how the nation is perceived globally”, Mr Haigh said.

Japan stayed fourth while China’s rise pushed Germany down to fifth, with economic turmoil damaging the status of Europe’s richest country.

David Lammy, Britain’s shadow foreign secretary, told delegates that “this is the time to invest in soft power” as he criticised the UK government for making cuts to the BBC, the British Council and development aid.

“I lament where the UK finds itself at this point in time. I do want to see Britain reconnected once more with the global community,” he said.

Updated: February 29, 2024, 3:11 PM