每日英語跟讀 Ep.K065: Coronavirus Is Battering Africa’s Growing Middle Class
As the coronavirus surges in many countries in Africa, it is threatening to push as many as 58 million people in the region into extreme poverty, experts at the World Bank say. But beyond the devastating consequences for the continent’s most vulnerable people, the pandemic is also whittling away at one of Africa’s signature achievements: the growth of its middle class.
For the last decade, Africa’s middle class has been pivotal to the educational, political and economic development across the continent. New business owners and entrepreneurs have created jobs that, in turn, gave others a leg up as well.
Educated, tech-savvy families and young people with money to spare have fed the demand for consumer goods, called for democratic reforms, expanded the talent pool at all levels of society, and pushed for high-quality schools and health care.
About 170 million out of Africa’s 1.3 billion people are now classified as middle class. But about 8 million of them could be thrust into poverty because of the coronavirus and its economic fallout, according to World Data Lab, a research organization.
It’s a setback that may be felt for years to come.
“The tragedy is that because Africa is not growing fast, this collapse of the middle class could take several years to recover,” said Homi Kharas, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and the co-founder of the World Data Lab.
Africa’s middle class tripled over the past 30 years, by some estimates, spurred by job opportunities in sectors like technology, tourism and manufacturing.
But now that the region is facing its first recession in 25 years, millions of educated people living in urban centers could fall victim to the extreme income inequality that has defined Africa for decades.
Kharas defined the middle class in Africa as households that spend anywhere between $11 and $110 per capita per day.
The rising middle class has been “critical for the future prospects of African economies as they stimulate long-term growth, social progress, an inclusive and prosperous society and effective and accountable governance,” said Landry Signé, author of “Unlocking Africa’s Business Potential.” The coronavirus “will drastically delay wages and hold back the dreams of Africa’s middle class,” he said.
What distinguishes the middle class from the poor, said Razia Khan, chief economist for Africa and the Middle East at Standard Chartered bank, is the ability to earn a steady income. But because of the pandemic, many more people across Africa are at risk of being “knocked back into poverty” because of lack of jobs, unemployment benefits or any social safety net, she said.
The pandemic is also posing a threat to nascent industries supported by governments in Africa in recent years to boost the number of middle-income earners.
Source article: https://udn.com/news/story/6904/4712407