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October 2014, Volume 21, Number 4

Africa Rising?

Africa may be at the dawn of a new economic age, with growing exports fueling a new middle class. The so-called Africa Rising story is based on assertions that 350 million Africans were in the middle class in 2010, ten times more than the 32 million estimated by the OECD, which put the African economy's purchasing power on par with the Canadian economy. The African Development Bank, on the other hand, defines middle class as having an income of $2 or more a day, and says that middle class means being able to buy more than necessities.

University of Texas Professor Vijay Mahajan popularized the notion that Africa is rising in a 2009 book, Africa Rising: How 900 Million African Consumers Offer More Than You Think. Mahajan argues that up to a third of the 1.1 billion Africans can be considered middle class and that, despite many problems, there is more hope than despair across a continent where 40 percent of residents are under 15.

There are many challenges, including a population increasing by 20 million a year and an urban population increasing twice as fast, by 40 million a year.

US. The number of African immigrants in the US rose from 100,000 in 1970 to 1.6 million in 2010; over half arrived between 2000 and 2010. The four leading countries of origin provided over 40 percent of African immigrants in the US: Nigeria, with 243,000 immigrants in the US in 2012; Ethiopia, 191,000; Egypt, 174,000; and Ghana, 134,000.

Many of the African immigrants in the US arrived as students and settled, helping to explain why a higher share of African immigrant adults, 17 percent in 2012, than US-born adults, 11 percent, have advanced degrees. African immigrants are more likely than other immigrants to report speaking English very well, and have higher median earnings than the median of all immigrants taken together.

A Liberian visitor was stricken with the Ebola virus after arriving in the US in September 2014. He has since died. Thomas E. Duncan completed a departure form in Liberia saying he had no contact with anyone with Ebola, even though he helped a neighbor who later died go to a hospital.

Countries. South Africa modified migration policies May 26, 2014, distinguishing between short-and long-stay visas.

South Africa in 2010 allowed 245,000 Zimbabweans in the country to obtain Zimbabwe Special Permits (ZSP) that allow them to live and work in South Africa. These permits are to be extended until December 2017 beginning in October 2014. The South African government will also crack down on unauthorized foreigners in the country.

Kenya in September 2014 suspended sending domestic workers abroad because of what the government called mistreatment of Kenyan women abroad. The government said that all private recruiters would have to be re-certified in order to send domestic workers abroad.

Ghana, Africa's second-largest gold producer, is floundering, with an economy that has stalled and a depreciating currency. In 1960, Ghana and South Korea had roughly the same per capita GDP, and both had about 60 percent of their workers employed in agriculture. In 2013, Ghana's GDP per capita was $1,400, while Korea's was $21,000.

About 70 percent of government spending is on the bureaucracy, which is considered overstaffed and inefficient. The cedi, introduced in 1967, has lost value against the dollar.

Niger is one of the world's poorest countries with one of the highest birth rates; women average eight children each. Niger's population of 17 million is expected to exceed 35 million by 2030.