Market Solutions Growing an African Middle Class
What’s the Latest Development?
New business opportunities in Africa are offering a burgeoning middle class the opportunity to escape the continent’s infamous cycle of poverty and violence, empowering larger sections of the population to hold their governments accountable. “According to the African Development Bank, this middle class already includes 313 million people, or 34 percent of the total population.” Commodities like oil, natural gas, old and diamonds represent a shrinking share of economic output, with service sector and manufacturing jobs expanding. Market-based lending programs, rather than corruption-prone foreign-aid packages, have helped along the way.
What’s the Big Idea?
Richard Kimani, who lives in Nairobi, Kenya, is a good example of the power of market-based reforms. After securing a low-interest loan worth millions from a German investment company, Kimani has built a successful juice bottling business. Shipping the manufacturing equipment from Germany, however, is not easy, as local officials still require bribes to turn the wheels of industry. But, says Kimani, budding industries demonstrate to the middle class that there is a lot to lose. As a result, he expects that Kenya’s leaders will be held to higher account in the presidential election scheduled for next spring.
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