How the COVID-19 crisis changed the scene for media in the Middle East

LONDON: The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia have become the top Arab nations in the Brand Finance Global Soft Power Index 2022, which was launched on Tuesday at the Global Soft Power Summit in London.

Soft power practitioners and researchers gathered at the forum to launch the Global Soft Power Index, the world’s most comprehensive study of the perception of nations as brands.

Of the 13 Arab countries featured in this year’s index, the United Arab Emirates ranked 15th, the highest position for any national brand in the Middle East and North Africa.

Saudi Arabia came in second among Arab countries with a global ranking of 24, retaining last year’s position but with a notable improvement in its index, which climbed to 47.1 out of 100.

Saudi Arabia came second among Arab nations with a world ranking of 24, maintaining last year’s position. (Provided)

Globally, the US has rebounded to first place this year, recovering from a major deterioration in its public perception in late 2020 and 2021, while the UK has also slipped to second place after falling weathered the fallout from COVID-19 and the Brexit debate.

According to Andrew Campbell, managing director of Brand Finance Middle East, the new ranking shows that Saudi brands are growing and dominating throughout the Middle East.

“Each of the major Saudi brands is working towards Vision 2030 in their respective sector, registering impressive growth,” he told Arab News.

“Ma’aden is the fastest growing brand in the whole region and Saudi brands from different sectors are making their mark. These include Saudia Airlines, the fastest growing airline brand in the Middle East this year.

Indeed, Saudi Arabia has made soft power and national branding key priorities in its Vision 2030 social and economic reform agenda.

The King Salman Humanitarian and Relief Center (KSRelief) is a key international aid brand. (SPA)

The Kingdom is considered the center of the Arab, Islamic and international energy world, steeped in rich history and culture. Promoting these qualities, he used soft power as part of his foreign policy strategy for many years.

Meanwhile, in the UAE, expos such as Expo 2020 Dubai have been used to cement the country’s role as a global soft power and as a tool to connect nations and build bridges through innovation and on inspiration.

Speaking at the Global Soft Power Summit, Sarah bint Yousef Al-Amiri, UAE’s High Tech Minister and Chair of the UAE Space Agency, said her country was claiming its place in the index. by embracing change.

“It is no coincidence that the United Arab Emirates is the most powerful from a soft power point of view in the Middle East and North Africa. This is due to complete dedication and evolution, acceptance of change and innovation.

The UAE also recognizes “the importance of leading, not dictating what is right and wrong, and what form of governance is right and wrong”, she said.

Instead, he leads by “showing how you create opportunity, showing how you create change, showing how you build growth within your own nation.”

Index scores were determined using a range of measures in seven areas: business and commerce, governance, international relations, culture and heritage, media and communication, education and science, and people and values.

The Brand Finance Index has also added a special metric to measure how nations have responded to the challenges of COVID-19.

Soft power, a term coined by American political scientist Joseph Nye in 1990, is defined as the ability to achieve preferred outcomes through attraction rather than coercion or payment.

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Nye argued that there is an alternative foreign policy tool for states to win the support of others. Instead of the traditional hard power approach, which relies on military and economic means, soft power, achieved through shared values ​​and norms, can be used to attract states rather than constrain them.

“Soft power will reduce some of the future needs for hard power and ultimately should lead to more peace and prosperity,” British Council CEO Scott McDonald said at the London summit in his keynote address. opening.

The Global Soft Power Summit was held in London on March 15, 2022. (Supplied)

According to the Global Soft Power Index 2022, the United Arab Emirates performed best in business and trade, ranking among the top 10 in the world. It came in fourth for being “easy to do business in and with” and ranked eighth for being a “strong and stable economy”.

Performing well on a variety of other metrics, the UAE has achieved the fastest improvement this year in education and science. The UAE’s emphasis on high-tech industries and its leap into space exploration with the Emirates Mars mission likely influenced its score in this area.

“For us, innovation is not a choice,” Al-Amiri told Arab News. “It’s actually an imperative mechanism of development, simply because five decades ago we didn’t have access to basic education, basic infrastructure, or any of the modern lifestyles that we have. today.”

At that time, the United Arab Emirates “transitioned from a country that focused entirely on building infrastructure, because it did not exist, to a nation that builds what I call soft infrastructure based on talent and the use of science. and technology, which uses research and development as an engine for economic growth and sustained economic growth,” she added.

The UAE is also emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic stronger than before, with its trade and investment achievements highlighted by the success of Expo 2020 Dubai.

However, embracing change and innovation does not mean that the UAE has lost sight of its authentic character. Instead, the nation has allowed its identity to develop alongside its economic diversification.

Brands such as Saudia Airlines have played a role in building Saudi Arabia’s national brand. (Provided)

“We have no problem looking back in terms of culture, in terms of values, understanding what works, understanding what needs to continue to evolve and develop in the future,” Al-Amiri said. .

“We want to understand and appreciate the differences between people. The laws are there, but never set in stone.

Along with the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, 11 other Arab countries were included in this year’s Global Soft Power Index.

Qatar, Egypt, Kuwait and Morocco placed third, fourth, fifth and sixth respectively, followed by Oman, Jordan, Bahrain, Algeria, Tunisia, Lebanon and Israel. Iraq ranked seventh to 13th.

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