Amid the despair and apprehension, some good news: Africa’s middle class is growing. An African Development Bank report suggests that within the next fifty years, the African middle class will reach one billion people, a figure that will undoubtedly draw the attention of marketers. From the Wall Street Journal:
Building on the bank’s earlier research, the report predicts Africa’s middle class will continue an expansion that has captured the attention of multinationals. The number of Africans earning between $4 and $20 a day will balloon from 355 million people today—a number on par with China and India. That might seem low for inhabitants of many developed countries, but the bank says it is a level at which Africans can spend a bit on products or entertainment beyond the bare necessities of food and shelter.By 2060, that number is expected to grow to as many as 1.1 billion, or about 42% of the continent’s population by that year.
The report also suggests that African GDP growth, which has been steady throughout the market turmoil rocking the U.S. and Europe, will continue. The rosy outlook comes with some caveats, though: even with continued growth, sustainable African success is contingent upon the development of good governance and industry. African economic growth is regularly wiped out by corruption and graft, and until good governance takes hold throughout the continent, growth itself will not solve the continent’s problems.Another hold-the-champagne thought: these very modestly prosperous people will not necessarily behave like so many prosperous Germans and Swiss.Optimists often fool themselves by assuming that these emerging consumers will behave more like classical western middle classes: choosing moderate political parties, fighting for better governance and so on. That is too hopeful. Early stage middle classes are often turbulent. People scratching a bare subsistence living from an unforgiving landscape don’t have a lot of time and energy for ethnic and religious conflict. Once you get above that level, the wars and the ethnic cleansing breaks out.Even so, rising incomes in Africa are good news. It is fashionable among the rich and the high minded to mock the ‘prosperity gospel’, but here at Via Meadia we don’t think it’s God’s will for billions of people to be endlessly trapped in hopeless poverty.