UAE enters top 10 in global soft power rankings

Ukraine rises up table while US, UK and Germany hold top three positions

Expo 2020 Dubai helped the UAE boost its reputation, brand experts said. AP
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The UAE has entered the world’s top 10 countries ranked by soft power, a summit was told on Thursday.

Ukraine has also earned a boom in its reputation and influence after rallying allies to its cause against Russia.

Saudi Arabia entered the top 20 in the annual Global Soft Power Index unveiled in London on Thursday.

It measures a country’s ability to influence others by attraction or persuasion rather than coercion.

There was no change in the top three as the US, Britain and Germany maintained their positions, in that order.

But the UAE became the highest-placed Middle East country in 10th after jumping five places in the ranking by Brand Finance.

The UAE was "the star of the show", the consultancy's chairman David Haigh said.

It gained ground by increasing its influence in diplomatic circles and using Expo 2020 Dubai to show itself as a global trading hub, he said.

The UAE was third for generosity, on account of its foreign aid spending, and third for economic growth potential.

“The UAE was one of the first economies to roll out mass vaccination and open during the Covid-19 pandemic, giving it a head start ahead of others and allowing it to maintain positive perceptions across the business and trade pillar,” Mr Haigh said.

“The successful showcase of the Emirates as a global trade hub thanks to Expo 2020 has also undoubtedly provided a significant boost.

“At the same time, the UAE is one of the largest donors of foreign aid as a percentage of GDP, which is recognised by the global general public, counting it among the world’s most generous nations.”

The UAE has also won points because of its Mars mission and is set to remain in the spotlight by hosting the Cop28 climate summit.

Dr Thani Al Zeyoudi, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Trade, said the country's policy was to have few enemies, take a neutral stance and seek a diverse range of partners.

He told the London summit that people who visited the UAE were surprised “by how advanced and how progressive we are, and how sustainable”.

Speaking at the same event, former UK prime minister Boris Johnson praised the UAE’s public relations and space programme when asked what Britain could learn from the country.

“People don’t know about the extent of UAE investment in the UK. It’s massive,” Mr Johnson said.

Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, was perceived as a strong economic player at a time of energy crisis and jumped to 19th. Qatar came 24th after hosting the men's football World Cup.

Ukraine made most progress among 121 countries ranked, coming 37th after widespread praise for the way President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has represented his country.

By contrast, Russia dropped down the rankings to 13th, after its invasion of Ukraine left it isolated on the world stage.

Russia’s reputation tumbled from 23rd to 105th in the world because of the war, while western sanctions damaged its standing as a place to do business.

China came fifth overall but lost its top spot in the business and trade ranking to the US.

President Joe Biden’s vast investment plans boosted America’s score on science and the economy, with the US coming first in 16 of 35 categories.

The UK stayed second but improved its score, in a year in which the death and funeral of Queen Elizabeth II gave the world a display of British tradition, pageantry and prestige.

Britain also improved its score for “good relations with other countries”, amid a rapprochement with the EU that led to a new Brexit deal being signed this week.

Germany remained in third despite taking blows to its image due to Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s cautious stance on the war in Ukraine.

“This has had little impact on the nation’s perceptions among the global public,” the consultancy said after polling about 100,000 people around the world.

Updated: March 02, 2023, 2:34 PM