“A great city,” Aristotle mused, “is not to be confounded with a populous one.”
Alas, people have many different reasons for picking their favorite destinations, ranging from natural beauty and rich culture to prolific art and outdoors activities.
Now jump into the shoes of a business leader eyeing international expansion, and suddenly the criteria to evaluate potential foreign host cities sway less toward the romantic and more toward the practical and economic.
In our technology and knowledge-intensive era, business leaders must evaluate expansion opportunities based on the quality of a city’s human capital, volume of business activity, information infrastructure, quality of educational and research institutions, a native culture of innovation, access to cultural activities, transportation infrastructure and proximity to markets.
Companies will weigh each of these elements differently, depending on the nature of their business, but here are our choices for the top cities that have “got their global on” for each continent, including some strong runners-up, and up-and-comers.
As growth has accelerated, Africa has produced many up-and-coming cities that companies should consider as their base on the continent.
Tunis and Algiers, for example, boast strong human capital and excellent health systems. Accra, Lagos, and Johannesburg are particularly easy to do business in, making them relatively strong options as well.
Another interesting place to consider is Cairo, one of the world’s most ancient cities. It ranks well in most business oriented categories, including having a strong, educated middle class, as well as good infrastructure and transportation, though political instability is an ongoing concern.
We most strongly recommend Nairobi, Kenya, as it is targeted by a number of multinationals as a sub-Saharan or overall Africa headquarters.
Chinese companies are spending hundreds of millions of dollars there to gain access to East African resources.
Nairobi is also sub-Saharan Africa’s leading city for human capital, technology readiness, transportation and infrastructure, and is a gateway to other markets. Nairobi is also one of the earliest metro locations for Global Chamber in Africa.
It’s hard to ignore several cities that have come on hard in the last couple of decades. Singapore, Seoul, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Bankgok, Mumbai, Sydney, Beijing and Shanghai are all among the world’s top cities for doing business.
Yet surprisingly, one of the easiest cities for foreigners to live in and companies to do business in is Tokyo, Japan.
Certainly a gateway to a top economy and most of Asia, Tokyo has a fully developed infrastructure, top-notch transportation systems and more restaurants per capita than any city in the world.
Tourism in Japan has tripled in the last 10 years, helping to connect companies to the middle and upper class consumer and business sectors from across Asia. Global Chamber Tokyo is a great local resource for connecting businesses too.
And you haven’t experienced the true magnificence of sushi or ramen until you’ve tasted them in Tokyo.
Europe hosts many cities that are instantly recognizable as world class.
Only a couple of decades after the fall of the wall that bore its name, Berlin has rapidly emerged as a business capital.
Brussels is seat to the European Union’s governing apparatus and a transportation hub.
Often called the “Gateway to Europe,” Amsterdam has been a hotbed of trade for centuries, residents are routinely multi-lingual and the Dutch economy is built around global commerce.
Geneva is business-friendly and home to a rich population of multi-lingual professionals and executives.
But the two leaders in most-business friendly categories – including business activity, human capital, information infrastructure, and cultural activity – are London and Paris. Our pick by a hair: Paris.
The main difference maker is Paris’ location on the continent and therefore slightly better land and air access to other markets throughout EMEA.
Its status as the world capital for cuisine and reputation for romance check off two more boxes in favor of the City of Light.
South America: Buenos Aires
Brazil’s Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro are both respectable contenders for the South American title, with solid showings in most business categories. Bogota, Santiago and Lima are great cities as well.
But Argentina’s Buenos Aires is still South America’s shining star, with the continent’s best scores in intellectual capital, innovation, technology, infrastructure, transportation, and as a gateway to other regional markets.
Global Chamber Buenos Aires taps in to the power of the region with its close proximity to Uruguay and Paraguay, and access to the world via air.
And the food, oh my!
North America: New York
North America has many established global cities, as well as a strong bench of cities rapidly rising in the ranks.
Toronto, Boston, Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC are all strong contenders.
So is San Francisco, which possesses perhaps the most vibrant innovation ecosystem in human history.
But our winner because of its dominance in so many categories, is New York City.
Across several compelling categories, including human capital, business activity, information infrastructure, culture, transportation, immigration history, and innovation, the Big Apple is a global leader.
When you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere.
Visit Global Chamber New York City, or connect wherever you are, and grow globally!
What other cities would you recommend to others as excellent locations for global business?