Monday, July 12, 2010

Yes, Africa does have a middle class

A couple of good reports and a sporting event is helping the world to realize that Africa does have a middle class. Investment consultant McKinsey & Company told investors to "not ignore the potential" of Africa, while the World Bank told us Africa's economy will have 4.5 to 5% growth for this year and the next. Sure, the continent does have some problems but the African economy is one of the best performers in the world.

From The Guardian, writer David Smith combines all of the recient good news into one article.

"Africa is leading, believe it or not, global economic recovery in the sense of being such a strongly recovering zone compared, for instance, to Europe or the US," Ncube told the Observer. "If you look at the ranking, it's China, India, then Africa and then Brazil. That is the untold story about Africa."

He predicted that China will double its investment in Africa in the next few years, with the establishment of manufacturing parks likely to be the next big development: "At the moment East Africa is the shining zone: Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania. These are countries that basically rely on agriculture and services."

The Ethiopian famine that inspired Bob Geldof's Live Aid concert 25 years ago this week was the defining image of a war-torn continent, eternally hungry, helpless and dependent on foreign aid. But the ADB is the latest voice to argue that Africa is poised to become a serious global player. Many argue that, after failed socialist experiments, it is now embracing capitalism and reaping the rewards.

Africa has huge mineral reserves, underexploited farmland and a booming young population. Trade and foreign investment have increased fourfold in a decade. Numerous problems, including entrenched poverty, political instability and an Aids epidemic, still cast a shadow, but Ncube estimates that one in three Africans is now part of a burgeoning middle class: "We do worry about the bottom of the pyramid in Africa, but there's something to be said about the middle of the pyramid. We say very little about the African middle class.

"These are your consumers and they want the same things. They want mobile phones, they want to travel, they want to send their children to the best schools. The issue now is capacity to live out and achieve those aspirations."

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