In Search of the “African Middle Class”

The Other Africa. Image by Philippe Sibelly

“The Other Africa.” Image by Philippe Sibelly

“Africa Rising” stories have become old news in English-speaking media, so much so that Africa is a Country called them a meme not long ago. But only a few have run in French news outlets, and one such op-ed [fr] recently made it to the pages of the well-respected daily newspaper Le Monde. The piece has a specific flavor for a couple of reasons: a condescending and prescriptive tone, also known as the Françafrique touch, as its title trumpeting that “Africa is on the right tracks” (L’Afrique est bien partie) makes clear; an emphasis on the rise of the “African middle class”, portrayed as the cornerstone of the “African economic revolution”, whose origins are to be found in “diversifying and emancipating economies”, enabling “endogenous growth” that is free of the “dependency on raw materials exports” because it is “driven by consumption”. Such a nice Cinderella story! Who would guess that a little over a decade ago Africa was mostly described as “the hopeless continent”? Continue reading