The middle class should find solutions to the problems faced by Africa, President Jacob Zuma has said.
Zuma told the Forum Forbes Afrique in Congo Brazzaville yesterday that, despite Africa’s positive economic outlook, the continent was still confronted by fluctuating commodity prices, rising inequality and youth unemployment
“The African middle class should be a key player in finding solutions to these challenges,” he said.
He said the growing middle class was created by people moving out of poverty into formal employment and acquiring skills needed to transform their economies.
Growth of the middle class in Africa was crucial for the growth of the continent at large, Zuma said.
“The growth of the middle class is good for Africa as it means a growth in a population with skills to help manage the economy,” he told the Forum.
“It also means a growing market for goods and services which is crucial given that Africa has become the next frontier for world economic growth after China and India,” Zuma said.
The forum, which was attended by scholars, the business community, politicians and journalists, discussed the problems facing the emergence of an African middle class.
Zuma said that over the last decade, six of the world’s 10 fastest growing economies were in Africa.
“It was predicted last year that seven of the fastest growing economies in the world over the next five years will be in Sub-Saharan Africa.”
These were Ethiopia, Mozambique, Tanzania, Congo, Zambia, Nigeria and Ghana.
Despite the progress, there was still severe poverty and inequality in many parts of the continent.
Zuma said the continent was dispelling colonial myths as a dark continent and had entered an era of progress, hope and opportunity.
Among Africa’s key development drivers were the abundant natural resources, the growing consumer power of Africa’s emerging middle class and a very youthful population.
“These attributes offer enormous potential for sustainable economic growth and development across the continent,” he said.
Thirty years ago, the African Development Bank estimated the middle class population in sub-Saharan Africa to be about 100 million people.
Currently, data compiled by the World Bank and the African Development Bank put the number of middle class Africans at 350 million from a total population of approximately 875 million.
Countries with the largest middle class populations were South Africa, Kenya, Ghana and Angola.
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