Analysis released by South Africa’s Standard Bank, which has operations across Africa, estimates that the African middle class has tripled in size over the past 14 years and that this boom is gaining momentum.
Standard Bank analysed 11 of the biggest economies in the region: Angola, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. It classified households that consume more than $15 a day as lower middle class or middle class. Most of these households are urban, headed by people with full-time or part-time jobs. More than 95% own televisions, and they often shop at formal grocery stores or supermarkets rather than informal markets.
The study forecasts that this growth will continue to gain momentum over the next 15 years, estimating that a further 25 million households will become middle class and lower-middle-class households in those 11 countries.
Nigeria is by far the biggest source of the new middle class in Africa, while several East African countries are lagging. By 2030, Standard Bank estimates, there will be 12 million middle-class households in Nigeria alone.
According to another survey by the African Development Bank, more than 1 in 3 Africans have entered the middle class in the past decade, making a total group of 370 million, 34% of the continent’s 1.1 billion people. By 2060, this group is projected to represent 42% of the population.
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Standard Bank describes “an undeniable and powerful rise in income across many of Africa’s key frontier economies, allowing the formation and strengthening of a substantial middle class.”
Mthuli Ncube, the ADB's Chief Economist and a senior research fellow with Oxford University's Blavatnik School of Government, named investment in Africa as the big driver of this growing middle class. The IMF forecast that Africa’s economic growth will reach 5.8% in 2015 (up from 4.7% in 2013).
Despite the rise in the middle class, 86% of households in the 11 focal countries are still low-income. This figure is expected to decline to 75% by 2030.