Johannesburg the top African commercial centre

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Johannesburg was the only African city to make it into the Top 50 of the Worldwide Centres of Commerce Index, a project undertaken by Mastercard to judge how major cities compare in ‘performing critical functions that connect markets and commerce globally’.

It also came 11th in a related survey, also undertaken by Mastercard, the 2008 Worldwide Emerging Market Index in which 65 cities, which met certain criteria, were ranked. Cape Town came in 33rd on this index and Durban 37th. The only other cities in sub-Saharan Africa to make the emerging markets list were Nairobi in Kenya (63) and Dakar (65). In North Africa, Cairo was ranked 44th and Casablanca in Morocco 53rd.

Other top-ranked cities in emerging markets were Beijing (China), Budapest (Hungary), Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), Santiago (Chile), Guangzhou (China), Mexico City (Mexico), Warsaw (Poland), Bangkok (Thailand), Shenzhen (China), Sao Paolo (Brazil), Buenos Aires (Argentina) and Moscow (Russia). In the emerging markets index, eight criteria were used: economic and commercial environment; economic growth and development; business environment; financial services; commercial connectivity; education and IT connectivity; quality of urban life; and risk and security.

The survey says that with most cities in the emerging market index outside the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China), ‘South Africa’s showing may reflect the ongoing opening of Africa to Western products, services and companies.’ ‘It is clearly a place to watch carefully for new business opportunities.’ The global index ranks the Top 50 Centres of Commerce based on six measurements: legal and political framework; economic stability; ease of doing business; financial flow; business centre; and knowledge creation/information flow.

The Top 10 cities came as no surprise: London, New York, Tokyo, Chicago, Hong Kong, Singapore, Frankfurt, Paris, Seoul and Los Angeles. London came top of the list due to its ‘flexible operating environment for business, strong global financial connections and exceptionally high levels of international trade, travel and conferences.’ It said that New York, in second place, was once considered to be the unchallenged financial capital of the world. However, its bond market regulations hit the key criterion relating to measuring financial transactions, and also because of the less stable US economy and more volatile US dollar. The survey report says the fact that 11 cities in the Asia/Pacific region, topped by Tokyo, made the global list shows that these cities are ‘crucial lynchpins in the transactional flow of global commerce.’ The survey was undertaken before the current global financial woes hit.

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