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The African middle class: could its rise assist agricultural development?

Agriculture Social class Economic development Africa

The size of the African middle class has increased in the past two decades. One-third of the African population earn between US$2 and US$20 per day and, while the clear majority of them remain in a fragile economic position and could easily see their living standards decline, there is a sense of optimism about the role the middle class will play in African development. If the middle class continues to increase, it is likely to herald dietary changes that could lead to an increase in obesity and diet-related health conditions. A larger middle class is also likely to lead to greater levels of educational attainment, development and the modernisation of the agricultural sector. Its rise, therefore, has both positive and negative implications for African food security.

Key points:

  • There is no universal definition of middle class but, regardless of how it is defined, the African middle class is growing.
  • That trend is more apparent in North Africa than in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • The rise of the middle class is generally seen as a positive development for African social, agricultural and economic development.
  • Depending on the choices that its members make, however, the emergence of an African middle class will either assist the development of African agriculture or further increase the continent’s reliance on food imports.
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