In turn, the emergent class will help drive further economic growth and development, the Tunis-based AfDB study said.
By 2060, the group should represent 42 percent of the population, according to the study launched in Johannesburg nearly 20 years ago.
“There is a stable middle class and it is growing,” said Mthuli Ncube, the AfDB’s chief economist and a senior research fellow with Oxford University’s Blavatnik School of Government.
“It is a big driver for investment in Africa,” he added at a news conference in Johannesburg.
The International Monetary Fund forecasts that Africa’s economic growth, boosted by rising investment in natural resources and infrastructure, will reach 5.1 percent this year, up from 4.7 percent in 2013.
It should climb to 5.8 percent next year, the IMF predicts.
The study, which defined the middle class as having a purchasing power parity of between $2.20 and $20 (15 euros) a day, found that the middle class is strongest in countries with a robust and growing private sector.
North Africa leads the pack with at least 77 percent of its population counted among the middle class, surprisingly followed by the central African region with 36 percent of its people falling in that category — though many are considered to be vulnerable.
The southern African region, home to the continent’s most developed economy, South Africa, is in third place, level with west Africa with around 34 percent of their people classified as middle class.
East African countries are at the bottom of the ranking, having just a quarter of their nationals in the middle class.
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