Targeting the Lions – Brands and Africa’s New Middle Classes

Jo Bowman

Think of Africa and what immediately springs to mind is unlikely to be wine bars, high fashion and fast cars. But in this vast – and vastly disparate – continent, there's a strong emergent middle class, and they're in the market for many of the products and services that affluent consumers everywhere are buying.

Between the images of poverty and those of ill-gotten excess we're so familiar with, there are millions of people in good jobs, running their own businesses, with hope, aspirations, and money to spend.

While the recent recession shrank most world economies, Africa was able to grow. Even in the chaos of 2009, the continent's GDP grew 2%, at a time when GDP dropped 4% in the US, 2.8% in the European Union, and 1.5% in Latin America. McKinsey forecasts GDP on the continent to rise by 4.5% a year until 2015, and for consumer spending power to rise by 35%. It's true that much of this new wealth will go to the bottom end of the income spectrum, where millions are living around the poverty line. But as foreign investment comes in and political stability in most of the country – the recently turbulent north aside – fuels home-grown enterprise, there are plenty of people starting to move up the economic ladder, and the ranks of the middle class are swelling.