«academy reflects 1 Socio-Cultural Diversity of the African Middle Class The Case of Urban Kenya Dieter Neubert and Florian Stoll 14 Bayreuth African ...»
Bayreuth African Studies
academy reflects 1
of the African Middle Class
The Case of Urban Kenya
Dieter Neubert and Florian Stoll
14 Bayreuth African Studies
Diversity of the
African middle class
The Case of Urban Kenya
ii Bayreuth African Studies Working Papers 14 Bayreuth African Studies Working Papers The Institute of African Studies (IAS) at the University of Bayreuth promotes and coordinates African studies in 12 subject groups distributed over the six faculties of the University of Bayreuth. It coordinates research and teaching, training junior researchers, and promotes the exchange of information between persons and institutions engaged in research and teaching in or on Africa.
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In its first phase, since 2012, the Bayreuth Academy concentrates on the topic ‘Future Africa – Visions in Time’ From different academic perspectives, it explores concepts of ‘future’ emerging from Africa and its diasporas. An essential concern is to engage in general debates about 'future' through insights gained from regional research, notably African Studies.
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Beyond Europe: Narratives of the Future in Modern African History (Sub-project 1);
Visions of Nature: Concepts of Appropriating and Conserving Nature in Africa (Sub-project 2);
Middle Classes on the Rise: Concepts of the future among freedom, consumption, tradition and moral (Sub-project 3);
Concepts of Future in Mediaspaces of Africa and its Diasporas (Sub-project 4);
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About the Authors Dieter Neubert Since 2000 Dieter Neubert holds the Chair of Development Sociology at the University of Bayreuth. Currently, he is the executive director of the Institute for African Studies (IAS) Bayreuth and project director of ‘Middle Classes on the Rise: Concepts of the Future among Freedom, Consumption, Tradition and Moral’. He received his PhD in 1986 from the Johannes-Gutenberg-University in Mainz, studying social politics in Kenya. In 1994 he habilitated at the Free University of Berlin. Geographical foci of Dieter Neubert are Africa (Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and Mozambique) as well as Vietnam and Thailand. He is primarily interested in sociology of development policy (NGOs, emergency aid, participation), political sociology of Africa (democratization, civil society), conflicts and conflict regulation, social structure and social change in Africa, risks and disasters, local knowledge, science and technology studies, participative methods and globalization.
Since May 2013 Florian Stoll is part of the Department of Development Sociology (Chair Prof. Dieter Neubert), Bayreuth University. He works as Post-Doc researcher in the Project ‘Middle Classes on the Rise: Concepts of the Future among Freedom, Consumption, Tradition and Moral’ at to the Bayreuth Academy of Advanced African Studies. In 2011 he received his PhD from Albrecht-Ludwigs-University in Freiburg with a study on social milieus and their use of time in Recife, Brazil. He holds a Magister in philosophy and sociology as well. Geographically Florian Stoll focusses especially on Kenya and Brazil. His thematic research interest includes development and cultural sociology, social stratification, social milieus, urban sociology and the sociology of space.
Socio-cultural diversity of the African middle class.
The case of urban Kenya Dieter Neubert & Florian Stoll Introduction 1 In recent years there has been an increase of interest in the middle class in the Global South, as witnessed by media reports, economic forecasts and academic research. In the present discussion, the term “middle class” is used to refer to a middle-income group, whose income is above the poverty threshold. There is an extensive debate concerning what threshold values to use in defining the middle class. On the one hand, it is defined from a comparative global perspective, including the OECD countries; on the other hand, it is defined in respect of specific regions or countries in the Global South, which leads to lower threshold values. The middle class is usually defined as people with a daily per capita income of between two and ten US dollars at the lower end, and The text is a slightly revised and expanded version of a paper presented at the Congress of the German Sociological 1
between ten and 100 US dollars at the upper end (based on purchasing power parity). 2 This debate will not be carried on here (for an overview, see Neubert 2014: 24f). For a discussion of sociocultural differentiation, the categories proposed by the African Development Bank (AfDB 2011) are helpful as a rough guide and can be applied to the case of Kenya, which is presented in this article. The African Development Bank uses the following categories: 2–4 US dollars as “floating class”, which lives above the poverty line but is threatened by poverty; 4–10 US dollars as lower middle class and 10–20 US dollars as upper middle class.
While the existence of a middle class has long been acknowledged in Asia, North Africa and Latin America, the development of a large middle class in Africa south of the Sahara is a relatively new phenomenon which has attracted special attention. In a number of studies, the growing middle class is seen as representing an important economic potential for the development of Africa, since it also stands paradigmatically for a more positive economic image of Africa (AfDB 2011; McKinsey Global Institute 2010; Ncube, Lufumpa 2015). In all studies of the middle class in the Global South, it is remarkable that everyone talks of “the” middle class (Easterly 2001; Kharas 2010; Milanovic, Yitzhaki 2002). Apart from the difficulties of agreeing on a socio-economic definition, the implication is that this middle class has many common features. This also applies to Africa. At first glance, there are good reasons to speak of “the African middle class”. From an economic perspective, this is a group with greater consumption opportunities. The studies also underline the importance of education and careers. But especially in Africa, regional and ethnic identities continue to be important, even for the middle class. 3 Moreover, this is often bound up with a marked rural orientation. At least since the wave of democratization at the beginning of the 1990s, widespread pro-democratic views can be observed in parts of the middle class. Our own research shows that great importance is still attached to family and wider kin groups, as well as religion. In addition, the middle class has intensive international contacts. The money sent home by family members is important for financing education and other investments. A remarkable number of members of the middle class have migration or diaspora experience. Taken together these features seem to reflect the socio-cultural homogeneity of the African middle class as the socio-economic definition implies. But on a closer look, this is not so clear. The normative assumptions we have mentioned are not restricted to the middle class, but also apply to large parts of the lower class. The desire for education and social advancement, family values, religion, regional identities, democratic views and the importance of having contact with family members who live abroad are not limited to a specific socio-economic class. Features which at first might appear to be typical of the African middle class are in fact typical of large parts of African societies. The main difference between the middle class and the other groups is a socio-economic one based on the better position of the middle class with regard to consumption opportunities. The members of the middle class are financially better off than members of the lower class and this is their most distinctive attribute in 2–10 US dollars Banerjee, Duflo 2008; 2–13 US dollars Ravallion 2010, 446; 2–20 US dollars AfDB 2011: 2; or even 2 10–100 US dollars Kharas 2010: 9.
Despite many differences between the countries of sub-Saharan Africa, the aspects described here also apply in 3
comparison to the lower class. An important consequence of their higher income is that they are in a better position to buy consumer goods. But this is only a very broad way of describing the special realities of the middle class, which is defined by this socio-economic position. There is plenty to suggest that it would be a gross simplification to regard Africa’s middle class as a uniform, socio-culturally homogeneous group with largely similar or identical attitudes and orientations. Thus, the question is not whether the desire for education and social advancement, family, ethnicity, religion, diaspora relations and other characteristics are positive values for members of the middle class, but how these elements influence their everyday practices and their hopes and plans for the future. Very different orientations can be seen in connection with Africa’s political development, as an example will show. In Africa there is a significant group which cultivates liberal, cosmopolitan and democratic values and forms the core of the civil society. But there is another significant group which has a neo-traditional orientation. These groups have different views regarding so-called “traditional authorities”, the political role of ethnicity, ethnic micro-nationalism and the issue of abortion (see also Daniel/Neubert 2014).