According to the African Development Bank (AfDB), as far back as 2011 there were already 313 million people – or 34 per cent of the continent’s total population – that could be referred to as middle class. Yet at the same time, other parties see it differently. According to Standard Bank, only 15 million households in the 11 largest Sub-Saharan African economies fall into the bracket. Consultancy firm EIU Canback agrees there has been growth, but not as much as many think, suggesting that the African middle class rose to 6.2 per cent of the continent’s population in 2014, up from 4.4 per cent in 2004.
The disparities in estimates arise from differences in defining what exactly “middle class” is. The AfDB defines it as people spending between $2 and $20 per day, and has a separate category for “stable middle class” – which it said stood at 123 million people in 2011. Income, wealth, and consumption can all be used to establish class.