Saturday, March 26, 2011

Africa: Growing Middle-Class Demands Change

What is going on in Northern and Sub-Sahara Africa?

This seems to be the international question on everyone's mind. In particular, with all the uprisings in Northern Africa, people here in USA and world wide struggle to make sense of these movements.

But after decades of living with failed and corrupt dictators, the people had enough and want to express their desires for change. They want more accessible and accountable governments. They want to have stronger voices in their collective future.

The following article expresses the hopes and demands of middle-class Africa:

The middle class has been at the forefront of demands for political change in Tunisia and Egypt. Now,
a growing middle class south of the Sahara presents challenges for governments there
, as well as a potential source of political stability.

Political upheaval across North Africa is being driven, in part, by a growing middle class that wants more of a say in the way their countries are runPolitical upheaval across North Africa is being driven, in part, by a growing middle class that wants more of a say in the way their countries are run.

Desired input

It is a message that is now being heard in political campaigning south of the Sahara. Former anti-corruption chief Nuhu Ribadu is running to be president of Nigeria. He says uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia, and Algeria show a new generation throwing off economic repression.

"They are tossing off decades of oppression and failed forms of governance, failed policies, failed ideas," said Ribadu. "In an exciting display of people's power, these young men and women are demanding negotiation and securing democracy through the slogan of change."

Globally, the middle class, or consumer class, is considered to comprise households with daily spending of between $10 and $100 per person. They are generally a source of political stability as they are invested in their country's continued growth.

But that stability depends on the depth of economic freedoms.

"In the case of Egypt, for instance, the middle class grew in a political economy where the levers of power both political, security, and economic were held by a few," said Raymond Gilpin, the director of the Sustainable Economies Center of Innovation at the United States Institute of Peace. "That made it difficult for the emerging middle class, particularly over the past five years, to feel as if they are a part of the progress that was being made."

Gilpin says that is far different from the case of Ghana, where an already strong middle class is pushing the government to invest new oil profits in infrastructure.

"The middle class has been very effective in political participation," he said. "They have also been effective in ownership not just of jobs but also wealth. That is a lot more sustainable and leads to a lot more stability."

Steady growth
In Morocco, steady growth in revenue per capita has boosted the middle class from 40 percent of the population to more than 50 percent of the population over the last ten years. Economy Minister Nizar Baraka says it is as much about economic access as it about wealth.

"Middle class is not only a problem of revenue," said Baraka. "We think that the most important thing is to have this feeling of being included in the middle class, because that means that we have hope to have a better life and to have a better future for our people."

Over the next 20 years, the World Bank estimates that there will be 43 million sub-Saharan Africans in the middle class, most in growing economies including South Africa, Zambia, Nigeria, Kenya, and Ghana.

Gilpin says a better-educated and wealthier electorate is generally less prone to political manipulation and more vigilant about public finance. Read More

Census 2010: Black Return South With Hope

New York Times — The percentage of the nation’s black population living in the South has hit its highest point in half a century, according to census data released Thursday, as younger and more educated black residents move out of declining cities in the Northeast and Midwest in search of better opportunities.

The Rev. Ronald Peters, who moved last year from Pittsburgh to Atlanta, said the black middle class was more hopeful in the South than in the Northeast.

The share of black population growth that has occurred in the South over the past decade — the highest since 1910, before the Great Migration of blacks to the North — has upended some long-held assumptions.

Both Michigan and Illinois, whose cities have rich black cultural traditions, showed an overall loss of blacks for the first time, said William Frey, the chief demographer at the Brookings Institution.

And Atlanta, for the first time, has replaced Chicago as the metro area with the largest number of African-Americans after New York. About 17 percent of blacks who moved to the South in the past decade left New York State, far more than from any other state, the census data show. READ MORE

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Johnson Says There's No 'Magic' to Business Success

When you hear the name Earvin "Magic" Johnson, Jr., the first thing that comes to mind is basketball. Yes Johnson is a former point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers with five NBA championships, three MVP awards, and an Olympic gold medal. But the basketball hall of famer is also a philanthropist and savvy businessman.

After retiring from the NBA in 1996, he focused his attention on the Magic Johnson Foundation and Magic Johnson Enterprises (MJE), which includes a portfolio of funds to finance revitalization projects in underserved communities. He is notorious in business for having owned over 70 franchises of Starbucks and the only franchisee to own a 50 percent share. Although he recently sold his Starbucks in 2010, as well as his share of the Lakers, his name and brand is still associated with AMC Magic Johnson Theaters and 24 Hour Fitness Magic Sport centers. Johnson recently became chairman of VIBE Holdings LLC, a multi-cultural media company that includes Vibe magazine, Uptown magazine and Soul Train brands. He is also leading the charge in bringing a football team back to Los Angeles.

Taking a break from March Madness, Johnson talked to's Tiffany Black about managing multiple businesses, the keys to a great comeback, advice for start-ups and minority businesses, and his love of music. Read More