Headline Feb 04, 2016/ ''' STUDENTS *ASPIRATIONAL* AFRICA '''



ON A CONTINENT  once synonymous with war,  famine and poverty, a middle class has started to emerge, propelled by growth and urbanisation.

Its rise has much to do with the spread of democracy and greater rule of law  -countries with such attributes tend to generate more economic opportunities than those in which a few rulers line their pockets.

In turn, the new middle classes have raised their voices in demanding clean and accountable government and public services. 

A study by Nic Cheeseman of Oxford University, found that in Kenya the richer people were the more likely they were  to support democracy (and vote for the opposition).  

THE PUZZLING QUESTION  posed by the economic data is why middle-class is so small after a decade- In which economic growth has averaged more than 5% a year, about twice as fast as the population growth.

One reason is that the proceeds of economic growth are shared very unequally. In recent years inequality has increased alongside growth in most parts of Africa.

Another reason is that poverty in many parts of Africa is so deep that even though incomes may have doubled for millions of people, they are now merely poor rather than extremely poor.

Laurence Chandy at the  Brookings Institution, an American think-tank, points out that the average person in extreme poverty in Africa lived on just 74 cents a day in 2011, compared with 98 in other parts of the developing world. 

Ethiopia, which is both one of Africa's most populous nations and best developmental performers, is a good example. Its share of people living on more than $10 a day has increased more than 10 times in a decade to 2014 to 2% of the population: but that still left close to 98% of Ethiopians living below this threshold.

A low wage is better than none at all, but those living on $10- $20 a day are hardly sipping sangrias at sunset. For most of them, life is still tough. 

''I came from the north because I needed a job,'' a sweating Awal Ibrahim says as he cuts the copper out of old computer wires in Agbogbloshie.

Working relentlessly in the baking heat, he earns about 20 cedis ($5) a day. Does he still feel poor? He glances with commendable humour at the smouldering Sodom surrounding him: ''If I could find other work I would.''

This is the problem. Unlike Asia, Africa has failed to develop industries that generate lots of employment and pay good wages. Only a few countries manufacture very much, largely because national markets are small and barriers to trading within Africa are huge. 

Most people who leave the countryside move into labour-intensive but not very productive jobs such as trading in markets. John Page, also of Brookings, reckons that such jobs are on average only about twice as productive as the one that many left behind.

For the investors who piled in on the promise of a new African bourgeoisie, this is a worry. The commodities boom has ended and all but richest tend to stop spending at the first sign of economic trouble, as they have done in Nigeria and South Africa, as the continent's two largest economies.

Having overestimated the number of upwardly mobile people, many big firms are expanding far more slowly than they expected. A few years ago, Shoprite Holdings, South Africa's largest retailer, envisaged opening 600-800 stores in Nigeria.

It currently has 12. Across the continent in Kenya, Cadbury and Coca-Cola have closed factories. ''We thought this would be next Asia'', Nestle's chief executive for equatorial Africa said earlier this year. ''But we have realised the middle class .....is extremely small and it is not really growing.'' 

Those investors with deep enough pockets can afford to wait. In the meantime, they are expertly targeting poorer shoppers with such things as tiny packets of washing powder and water. 

In Nigeria UAC Foods sells cheap sausage rolls through bus windows rather than supermarket aisles.

But those concerned about raising economic growth and the spread of democracy in Africa should be less patient. 

The middle class that has emerged, small as it may be, is also vulnerable; even mild economic shocks may be enough to push households back below the threshold of poverty. 

That in turn may slow the impetus for reform, and perhaps even reverse it.

With respectful dedication to the Leaders, Students, Professors and Teachers of all the following countries:  South Africa, Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Sudan, Sub Saharan Africa, Uganda, Madagascar, Mozambique, Tanzania, Congo, Ethiopia.   

See You all, Sires,   on !WOW!  -the World Students Society:

''' The Sound Of The Drum '''

Good Night and God Bless

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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