The rise of the black middle class in SA

South Africa’s black middle class has more than doubled in the last eight years, growing from 1.7-million South Africans in 2004 to an estimated 4.2-million in 2012, according to research by the UCT Unilever Insitute of Strategic Marketing.

The study on South Africa’s black middle class, dubbed “4 Million and Rising”, found that the annual spend of the country’s black middle class began pulling ahead of the white middle class counterpart in 2008, and has since skyrocketed to over R400 billion per annum.

“Despite setbacks caused by the recent recession, South Africa’s black middle class continues to rapidly expand and is more influential and powerful than ever before,” Unilever Institute director John Simpson said in a statement..

“In contrast, the white middle class has remained fairly stagnant over same period, with its adult population growing from 2.8-million in 2004 to 3-million in 2012.”

According to the study, 95% of South Africa’s black middle class now own mobile phones. This is compared to only 64% in 2004.

The study also noted that smartphones and increased Internet access has seen Internet usage quadrupling over this period.

“That this market continues to grow and prosper is crucial to the health and future of the economy,” Simpson said.

“The black middle class is helping create a vibrant and stable society by increasing South Africa’s skills base, deepening employment, and widening the tax net.”

The study investigated the growing market segment, and their spending habits and relationships with brands.

The results showed that there was a significant decrease in “rampant spending” showed by the black middle class in the early 2000s, as well as a shift of brands helping define identity, to brands being an extension of identity.

“This was the case across most product categories, except when it came to cars. For many in the black middle class, cars still embody status and are perceived as shorthand for social standing,” Simpson said.

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The rise of the black middle class in SA