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According to the African Development Bank, the continent of Africa is now home to the world’s fastest growing middle class. Standard Bank estimates that the Sub-Saharan middle class has grown by over 240% in just over a decade, and the bank defines 15 million households as now being middle class.

To put this in context, six of the world’s ten fastest growing economies during 2001-2010 were in Sub-Saharan Africa (The Economist and IMF, 2011). Specifically, the fastest growing economies in the world in this decade was Angola, with Nigeria, Ethiopia, Chad, Mozambique, Rwanda and Equatorial Guinea also on the list. Some reports predict that by 2020 consumer spending on the continent will exceed $1 trillion.

For Africa, the period from the 1970s through to the late 1990s can in general be viewed as lost decades since independence. This period has been characterized by a combination of serious governance failures; low and sub-optimal investment in health, education, and other social services; significant macroeconomic imbalances; poor infrastructure; and structural trade deficits. The post-2000 African economic boom, in contrast, has been built on a composite of factors, including technology (mobile in particular), demographic growth, urbanization and the rise of new dynamic African cities, improved macro-economic policy, enhanced regional cooperation and integration, better targeted social policy, and significant increases in the quality of governance and institutions. In turn, these factors have enabled the growth momentum on the continent to be maintained and to spark the growth of the middle classes. It is these middle classes that will be under the project spotlight.

We will examine the scale of the opportunity in terms of the emerging Sub-Saharan African middle class. The key areas of interest include the size of the segment and sub-segments, how fast is it growing? Is it growing at a faster or slower rate than other segments of the population? What would halt or slow the growth of this segment? Where is this middle class located i.e. the countries and cities are these consumers concentrated in?

We will also work towards understanding attitudes and behaviours among the emerging middle class. The aim will be to “de-average” consumers, and understand them as individuals and to understand how they are similar and where they can be addressed as one target, even if they are geographically disparate. Since Africa has higher proportion of young people we will also weight the study to ensure there is sufficient focus on youth.

Other areas of interest include:

  • Who are they? What are their life-worlds? What are their dreams and aspirations? What do they currently think and do when it comes to FMCG products?
  • What is their sphere of influence?
  • How is this middle class influencing Africa and the globe to shape and create future macro economic trends and what are these trends?
  • The role of brands. How do these consumers relate to brands?
  • What are some examples of “hero brands” across categories and how have they achieved this status? Is it through heritage/tradition, innovation, advertising, or what exactly are the drivers?
  • Media consumption – how do marketers reach this group?
  • Buying behavior – what are the key influences on purchasing decisions?
  • How is the middle class likely to evolve in the future? What do individuals aspire to?
  • Are there shared-value opportunities to enable marketers to develop sustainable models?
  • How can they be accessed? Which media do they consume, how and how often? Where do they shop? What is the role of family and peer influence?
  • How are the middle class different and similar across countries?

Research will be both qualitative and quantitative and will focus on 10 cities, which will be agreed through consultation with the various partners on the project. A final list of ten will be drawn from the following list:

Lagos Jos
Abuja Kano
Port Harcourt Accra
Addis Ababa Luanda
Dar es Salaam Maputo
Lusaka Harare
Nairobi Kinshasa
Ibadan Douala
Adidjan Kampala


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