New Report Highlights the World’s Most Competitive Cities

December 9, 2015

Increasing competitiveness key to more jobs and growth

WASHINGTON, December 10, 2015 – Improving the competitiveness of cities is a vital pathway to eliminating extreme poverty and promoting prosperity for a country’s citizens, a new World Bank Group report finds.

Launched today, Competitive Cities for Jobs and Growth: What, Who, and How analyzes 750 cities to determine what makes them competitive and how they have grown their economies. It provides a catalogue of urban data that city officials can use to benchmark their performance.

Three quarters of the cities studied in the report grew faster than their national economies since the early 2000’s, the report finds, but there is still room for improvement. Millions of jobs can be created if more cities performed at the level of the most competitive ones.

The report finds that to achieve success, competitive cities did not always overhaul their existing economies. Very often they simply became better at what they already did, leveraging their comparative advantage, especially when exporting tradable goods and services to other cities and countries.

“The private sector accounts for almost 75 percent of jobs created worldwide. To spur growth and become successful, cities must focus on expanding existing firms, creating new ones, and attracting investors in order to create more jobs, boost incomes of citizens, and grow,” said Anabel Gonzalez, Senior Director, Trade & Competitiveness Global Practice, World Bank Group.

The report looks at global and regional trends, comparing different types of cities—by income, sector, region, and industrial mix. It found that competitive cities include more than capital cities, or global centers of commerce. They are often secondary cities that are experiencing rapid industrialization, such as Saltillo, Mexico; Meknes and Tangier, Morocco; Coimbatore, India; Gaziantep, Turkey; Bucaramanga, Colombia; Onitsha, Nigeria; and Changsha, China.

“There is no single recipe for becoming a competitive city, but, as the report highlights, common patterns can be identified and specific techniques can be recommended to city authorities designing and implementing economic development strategies,” said Ede Jorge Ijjasz-Vasquez, Senior Director, Social, Urban, Rural, and Resilience Global Practice, World Bank Group.

Beyond the private sector, the report highlights how competitive cities concentrated interventions on institutions and regulations, infrastructure and land, skills and innovation, and enterprise support and finance. The most successful cities carefully adapted their interventions to their political economy, their economic opportunities and to the needs of their domestic firms.

In the most successful competitive cities:

  • business leaders were consulted about their needs and the constraints they encountered in their operations;
  • infrastructure investments were made in collaboration with the firms and the industries they aimed to serve;
  • skills initiatives were designed in partnership with firms, ensuring that curricula addressed their practical needs; and
  • industries were supported where they had a real commercial potential, through collective initiatives with the private sector rather than through the public sector alone.

The report is available at

Funding for the report came from the Competitive Industries and Innovation Program (CIIP).

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