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Middle class in Africa grows to 34.3% on solid economic growthAFP19 January 2012Africa's middle class has tripled over the last 30 years, with fully one in three now considered above the poverty line but not among the wealthy, according to the African Development Bank (AfDB).In 2010, 34.3 per cent of the African population, or 313 million people, were classified as middle class, compared with 26.2 per cent or 111 million people in 1980, the AfDB said in a report.'Solid economic growth in Africa over the past two decades has contributed to reducing poverty in Africa and increasing the size of the middle class,' the April 2011 report said, underlining that the emergent class helped increase consumption and develop the private sector.The class is defined as those who spend US$2-20 a day, a range the bank says is appropriate given the cost of living in the world's poorest continent.But those on the low end, living on US$2-4 a day, are vulnerable and could fall back into poverty at the slightest crisis, the AfDB warns.The more stable middle class - spending US$4-20 a day - counts some 120 million people and 'is more or less the size of the middle class in India or China'. Nevertheless, widespread inequalities persist, with some 100,000 Africans holding some 60 per cent of the continent's gross domestic product in 2008, according to the report.Some 61 per cent of the continent's population lives below the poverty line of US$2 a day.The middle class is 'crucial for the economic and political development of Africa', the AfDB says, noting that it provides a market for private businesses, as its counterparts in the US and Europe have done.Overall consumption levels on the continent are currently around a third of those in Europe, and have held up during the recession.Sales of refrigerators, TVs, mobile telephones and cars have increased markedly in almost all African countries over the past few years, the AfDB says.'Possession of cars and motorcycles in Ghana, for example, has increased 81 per cent since 2006,' the report said.Africans also have better access to electricity and high-speed Internet, have fewer children and spend more money on educating their offspring than poorer people do.'The number of Internet users, which can be used as a proxy for middle-class lifestyles, has increased from about 4.5 million people in 2000 to 80.6 million people in 2008,' the report says.On the political level, the middle class is better informed and more concerned about human rights and the quality of public services, and likely to demand more accountability from their governments.This rising middle class can be a key factor in helping African countries base growth more on domestic demand and less on exports, according to the report.
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