Business, Economics and Jobs

A third of all Africans are "middle class," report finds


Soweto residents shop at Maponya Mall in Soweto on March 19, 2010. This is the new Soweto, a mix of upper-crust comforts and urban grit, where shopping malls and landscaped parks have sprung up among some of South Africa's most important landmarks of the struggle against white-minority rule.



JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Lifted by rapid economic growth on the continent, a third of all Africans can now be classified as middle class, with record numbers owning houses and cars, according to a study by the African Development Bank.

Mthuli Ncube, the bank's chief economist, said the findings of a growing middle class in Africa are a wake-up call to those people with outdated perceptions of Africa as a continent of famine and poverty, reports the Guardian.

"Hey you know what, the world please wake up, this is a phenomenon in Africa that we've not spent a lot of time thinking about," Ncube told the Guardian. "There is a middle class that is driven by specific factors such as education and we should change our view and work with this group to create a new Africa and make sure Africa realizes its full potential."

The study found that by 2010, Africa's middle class had risen to 313 million of the continent's billion-strong population, or 34 percent — an increase from 27 percent or 196 million people in 2000. The middle class is defined as people who spend between $2 and $20 a day.

The north African countries of Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt had proportionately the biggest middle classes in Africa, with 75 percent of their populations ranked as middle class. Among sub-Saharan African countries, the small, resource-rich nations of Gabon and Botswana came out on top.

Liberia, Burundi and Rwanda had the smallest middle classes, according to the study, titled The Middle of the Pyramid: Dynamics of the Middle Class in Africa.

Members of Africa’s emerging middle are more likely to have salaried jobs or own small businesses, and have growing consumer clout. They tend to have fewer children and spend more on food, schooling, cars and their homes, including on home appliances and TVs.

The growth of a middle class contributes to democratization and entrepreneurship in Africa, South Africa's BusinessDay reports.

However, the study also found that 61 percent of Africa’s population lives on less than $2 a day, and about 20 percent of the population only earns enough to spend between $2 and $4 a day.