Kaleidoscopic portraits of African consumers

Sub-Saharan Africa is 47 countries, nearly 2000 different languages and dialects, large markets and small countries. There is no single consumer model that spans the region, and in each country a huge diversity of cultural, ethnic and economic differences exist. Today 60% of the African population lives in rural environments, while by 2040 60% of the continent's population will live in cities.

Over the past 15 years, strong economic growth and a rapid urban transition have produced visible changes in all of Sub-Saharan Africa. In particular, not one, but of many middle classes whose needs and demands vary greatly have emerged. Broadly speaking, the middle class, defined as the section of population that earns between 2 and 20 dollars per day, is expected to grow from 355 million people to 1,1 billion by 2060. Close to 60% of this middle class, however, forms a "floating category" (earning between 2 and 4 dollars per day) and remains vulnerable.

Mobile phone penetration in Sub-Saharan Africa, however, reached 70% in the third quarter of 2013 and according to provisions, the total number of subscriptions will rise from over 560 million in 2013 to around 930 million by the end of 2019. The 67 million smartphones already in circulation (a figure that is expected to reach 360 million in 2025) are also used for payment procedures. And although Sub-Saharan Africa remains the least connected region in the world, with 16% of the population having access to the Internet, the web has registered its highest growth rate here: between 2009 and 2013, Internet penetration increased on average by 27% annually. Some zones are already super connected, as for example Kenyan urban areas, with an Internet penetration rate of 70%. Internet usage in the region is similar to Europe or Asia's and includes social networks, correspondence by e-mail, video and music.

Should Africa maintain its current growth trajectory, consumers could buy goods and services worth up to 1,4 trillion dollars in 2020.

Main sources:
The making of the middle class in Africa Mthuli Ncube, Abebe Shimeles - African Development Bank, October 2012
The Emerging Middle Class in developing countries Homi Kharas - OECD DEVELOPMENT CENTRE, January 2010
L’état des villes africaines - ONU Habitat, October 2010
The rise of the African consumer Damian Hatting - McKinsey & Company, October 2012