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The provision of housing for the middle classes and civil servants is often confused with the notion of "social housing", and it is these classes that have benefited the most from social housing and urban renewal projects. In Johannesburg, Nairobi, Libreville, Dakar and now increasingly in Bamako and Ouagadougou, there are privileged and protected archipelagos of high standard buildings, residential areas, administrative and commercial centres.

These islands are surrounded by housing belts that accommodate those with a "low level of prosperity", while the outlying working-class neighbourhoods are surrounded by slums, which in turn are bordered by a ring of squatter settlements that provide a degree of shelter to the multitudes that are "excluded" from the modern city. Divisions are also noticeable in terms of social ties, through a clear willingness for emancipation from the traditional model of the extended family, with references borrowed from external models conveyed by the media - television and the Internet - that these populations have access to, and of which they are great consumers.

They are obliged to counterbalance two opposing aspects inherent to their status: they must take on board pressure, which remains intense, from their communities of origin with regards to the hierarchical obligations to support others; while on the other side they aspire to urban and individualistic modernity, driven by the notion of every man for himself. Since it is not possible to completely escape these ties, the social status can be seen as conferring a double bind onto the individual, making it necessary to make existential compromises that are difficult to live with.

Gradually, however, these populations change their habitus and develop new avoidance strategies, for example: ceasing to send money to their former village; no longer welcoming those that migrate from their village of origin; or no longer employing family labour. They shelter their nuclear family, their trade and business from solicitations. Some experts have raised concerns about these developments, fearing that the rise of the middle classes will bring acculturation and a loss of solidarity. The emergence of a depoliticized class, along with increasing inequalities, unchecked consumerism, lower levels of interaction, and a loss of the sense of community, could all open the door to new profiteers that take advantage of the social insecurity affecting both agents and victims of the new market forces.

At the same time there is increasing expectation that the "middle classes" may provide a driving force for democratic change. Their potential weight could, depending on local conditions, either make usurpation difficult, or mitigate the anti-democratic actions of regimes that are already in place that may have autocratic tendencies. It is also believed that the intermediate social group develops as a "middle class with aspirations", and therefore that it soon demands the construction of a state that guarantees compensation for losses of security resulting from the erosion of traditional protective institutions.

What do the field surveys tell us? They show that the African middle classes often have a certain political "apathy". In fact, the creation of a new group does not always lead to collective action that would open the social system.

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Here we find the Olson paradox: since all members stand to gain from collective action, whether they participate in this action or not, it is therefore better to do nothing and rely on the action of others. Ultimately, if each member follows this line of reasoning, there is no collective action. Moreover, we are talking here about states where economics and power are often closely linked. It is therefore perhaps understandable that individuals may prefer not to openly challenge the elite coalitions in power, when their own position is not fully consolidated.

A relative reduction of extreme poverty in sub-Saharan Africa Sub-Saharan Africa has experienced a steady decline in extreme poverty since the s due to unprecedented economic growth.

This reduction of poverty is accompanied by the emergence of a middle class with new expectations in terms of consumption and living conditions. Show Media. Social inequalities persist in sub-Saharan Africa The emergence of a middle class in Africa does not indicate an automatic reduction of inequalities.


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FR EN. The emergence of the middle classes in sub-Saharan Africa Date: Authors: Pierre Jacquemot. Regions: Sub-saharan Africa. Download PDF 4.

Sub-Saharan Africa and the OECD

Article Index. A widening of social inequalities. An impact on the growth and diversification of…. Rearrangement of social ties. A force for democracy or relative political…. A relative reduction of extreme poverty in sub…. Social inequalities persist in sub-Saharan Africa. A widening of social inequalities Despite national differences, all Africa's middle classes have managed to find a place within the existing income structures, between the very poor and the very rich, this income structure being very unequal, with gaps that have widened further during periods of rapid growth.

An impact on the growth and diversification of domestic markets It would be wrong to assume that the intermediate classes that have emerged in Africa demonstrate homogeneous behaviours and shared objectives. Rearrangement of social ties Africa's "middle classes" participate in the "urban dream". A force for democracy or relative political apathy?

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The three categories The so-called African "middle" classes are difficult to identify. The African Development Bank, which has pioneered attempts of statistical identification for the whole of Africa , now provides the reference AfDB, It proposes a division into three categories, showing that these emerging groups do not strictly form a single "class", but rather fit onto a scale between "neither very poor, nor very rich", in other words somewhere "in-between".

The histories behind the origins of the three groups in the "middle of the pyramid" are unique from one country to another. In Nigeria, which is by far the most populous country in Africa and has benefited from the redistribution of oil revenues, the middle classes have grown in numbers with the expansion of the private sector in areas such as banking, telecommunications and the service sector, mainly in Lagos.

However, it is difficult to generalize about this trend, as estimations are that two-thirds of Nigerians continue to live below the poverty line. The extreme disparity in incomes is partly explained by the low-level income diffusion effect experienced in the country. In Ghana, the rise of the intermediate classes was associated with the sums of money that were sent by those that were part of a large diaspora.

Sub-Saharan Africa: Environment, Politics, and Development | Cultural Survival

In Liberia, the intermediate class is comprised of educated entrepreneurs that were involved in the restoration of peace. Members of this class have attained a level above that of the very poor, but remain in an unstable and vulnerable position, at risk of returning to poverty in the event of a critical situation unemployment, recession. Its members have reached a "small amount of prosperity" and obtained an improvement in social status. JavaScript is currently disabled, this site works much better if you enable JavaScript in your browser.

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Buy Hardcover. Buy Softcover. FAQ Policy. About this book Graham Harrison investigates contemporary African politics by privileging the dynamics of political struggle and resistance. Show all.