Society for Cultural Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
The big news out of Africa is “Africa Rising!” This jubilant expression refers to an “emerging middle class” that is expected to expand global consumer markets and be the harbinger of a new era for the continent. Development economists, looking at metrics and capital flows, are enthusiastically debating the magnitude of this transformation; they are hotly criticized by anthropologists and sociologists who lament the economists’ lack of attention to class consciousness and the role of the state in class formation. What’s missing? This presentation apprehends another realm of knowledge production about African economies originating outside of academic scholarship. It explores how professional financial analysts posit "the African middle class" as an actionable category for financial innovation: for example, to create securities out of remittances streaming into the continent from abroad. Is the declaration of “Africa Rising!” about a growth miracle happening under the shade of the baobab tree or does it refer to the pragmatic development of global financial relationships being modeled in the light of computer screens? Reframed in this way, the most important question has yet to be addressed: To what extent is Africa’s financial landscape - and the middle class it will support - rising from within?