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Consumption in an Uncertain Environment. The Paradox of the African Middle Class.

Consumption in an Uncertain Environment. The Paradox of the African Middle Class.

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Published by IFRI
The emergence of a middle class, access for the African population to an increasing range of goods and services are real enough, but they should not give rise to blind optimism. The continent is vast and its regional and national situations are extremely varied. Furthermore, when there is no firm political regulation or security, economic growth – even when it appears strong – retains elements of fragility in most of the continent’s nations.
Speaking of the ‘middle classes’ in this context of economic growth is in keeping with the image of the situation in the African continent, which appears to the rest of the world to be growing more normal. The situation, however, varies considerably from one zone to another. The middle classes oscillate between the desire to consume and anxiety in face of insecure tomorrows. This difficult history in contexts which are always problematic at a time of rapid economic growth are factors that shape the ambivalent and complex attitude of the population group now achieving ‘middle-class status’ with regard to consumption.
The goal of this article is not to discuss what the middle classes are consuming, but rather to analyze certain key points – consumption as a social activity and the security issue, to name but two – which make it possible to explain, at least in part, the choices which this section of the population is making and to understand the social position it occupies.
The emergence of a middle class, access for the African population to an increasing range of goods and services are real enough, but they should not give rise to blind optimism. The continent is vast and its regional and national situations are extremely varied. Furthermore, when there is no firm political regulation or security, economic growth – even when it appears strong – retains elements of fragility in most of the continent’s nations.
Speaking of the ‘middle classes’ in this context of economic growth is in keeping with the image of the situation in the African continent, which appears to the rest of the world to be growing more normal. The situation, however, varies considerably from one zone to another. The middle classes oscillate between the desire to consume and anxiety in face of insecure tomorrows. This difficult history in contexts which are always problematic at a time of rapid economic growth are factors that shape the ambivalent and complex attitude of the population group now achieving ‘middle-class status’ with regard to consumption.
The goal of this article is not to discuss what the middle classes are consuming, but rather to analyze certain key points – consumption as a social activity and the security issue, to name but two – which make it possible to explain, at least in part, the choices which this section of the population is making and to understand the social position it occupies.

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: IFRI on Sep 28, 2012
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved

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07/16/2013

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