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“Despite this achievement, there is still severe poverty and inequality in many parts of the continent, President Zuma said on Tuesday at the Forbes Africa Forum 2013 in Congo.
A report by the World Bank and African development bank puts the figure of middle class Africans at 350 million.
South Africa is host to one of the biggest middle class populations in Africa but is also facing an acute unemployment crisis.
The country’s Reserve Bank Governor Gill Marcus revealed last week that South Africa’s youth unemployment rate has reached 52.8 per cent.
“The African middle class should be a key player in finding solutions to these challenges,” said Zuma.
Research findings by the McKinsey Global Institute, a consulting firm, defines middle-class households as those with incomes of $20,000 per year or more.
The institute says Africa’s middle class outstrips that of India.
The South African president noted that infrastructure development is the key to boosting this new-emerging middle class.
“To entrench Africa as the next frontier for global economic development, the African Union member states have identified the need to respond to the need for regional integration and inadequate infrastructure,” he said.