Stock Abu Dhabi skyline city UAE
UAE makes it to list of Top 10 nations on 'soft power', based on factors such as reputation, influence and perceptions related to doing business. Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: The UAE has powered its way into the Top 10 nations on ‘soft power’ status, a list that sees the US at the top. These rankings are based on where a country stands on parameters such as reputation, influence and familiarity.

The UAE built on the legacy provided by the Expo 2020 as well as the visibility brought on from what it did in the pandemic phase. It is the only country from the Middle East represented in the Top 10, though there are significant gains for Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which is coming off from the successful FIFA World Cup.

This is based on the Global Soft Power Index, calibrated by the UK consultancy Brand Finance every year.

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“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 with a particular improvement on the ‘future growth potential’ attribute, where it ranks third globally,” said David Haigh, Chairman and CEO of Brand Finance.

For a fourth year running, the UAE achieved the highest score of any Middle Eastern nation brand, but this year’s increase by 3.2 to 55.2 ‘meant a jump of five ranks to allow it to claim 10th position in the global ranking for the first time’.

The Global Soft Power Index is based on a representative sample of 100,000 plus respondents in over 100 markets, measuring perceptions of 121 ‘nation brands’.

Beyond Expo

Perceptions of the UAE’s governance and international relations counted for a lot in making it to the Top 10, as did the Mission to Mars and the wider ambitions on space. There is also the momentum build as host to the COP28 conference on creating more safeguards for the environment and action on climate.

“The historically oil-heavy economy continues to increase its commitment to diversification, innovation, and investment in a more sustainable future,” says Brand Finance.

All-round rise in influence for Gulf nations Other Gulf nations too have made marked gains in the soft power stakes, using the energy situation to their advantage after the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia National Day Parade_Large Image_m30227-1641567097620
Saudi Arabia enters the overall Index’s Top 20 for the first time at 19th spot.

“Saudi Arabia is looking beyond oil – showcasing its tourism appeal on the one hand and commitment to energy transition on the other,” the report notes. “It ranks 11th in the world for ‘rich heritage’ and places highly for ‘invests in green energy and technologies’ (25th) as well as ‘sustainable cities and transport’ (27th).”

Qatar made strides on soft power, as was expected from the staging of the FIFA World Cup. “Organising a major sporting event can really put a nation brand on the map,” Brand Finance states. “With improvements recorded across the three KPIs - familiarity, reputation, and influence - Qatar enters the Top 25 for the first time.”

Dollar power and more

The US retains its top spot in the Index and has further increased the lead over others with the strengthening of the dollar and the large-scale investment projects driven by the federal government, including the one on domestic manufacturing of semiconductors. “The US also benefits from the introduction of a new ‘invests in space exploration’ attribute in the education and science pillar, where it ranks No. 1 in the world.

Post-Elizabethan II UK

“Intense media coverage of the period of mourning and the monarch’s spectacular funeral attended by the world’s leaders reminded the global public of Britain’s greatest soft power assets,” Brand Finance notes, on the UK’s position at No. 2 after the passing on of Queen Elizabeth II.

China post-Covid

China saw a ‘marginal' growth in its Index score but dropped from fourth to fifth in 2023, overtaken by Japan. Germany was placed third.

“China remained closed last year, maintaining a ‘zero-Covid’ policy,” the report states. “This undermined its ability to improve perceptions at the same pace as competing economies, resulting in some relative declines.”

As for Russia, the Ukraine situation saw it slip out of the Top 10 on the Index.