Two Ivorians, considered to be middle class by the African Development Bank, narrate how they survive on between $2 (323 NGN) and $20 (3,225 NGN) a day.
Konan Kouassi Vercruysses, 26, runs a phone booth with his cousin. He works five-hour shifts, six days a week and attends university
Kouadio Koffi, 29, is a security guard who shares a one-room house with his cousin. He works 12-hour night shifts, six days a week.
Both men, who live in the main city of Abidjan, are single with no children, do not own a car, a house or land and were affected by the five-month conflict that followed the disputed 2010 polls.
Konan Kouassi Vercruysses:
I manage a phone box at the market of Cocody in Abidjan. A phone box is where people come to make a call or buy airtime for their mobile phones.
When you have many customers it's profitable but if you don't get many customers, unfortunately, you leave your work place empty-handed.
I don't live with my parents. I rent a room in a house with my cousin. He helps me manage my business when I am at university.
I'm studying English at the Felix Houphouet-Boigny University in Abidjan.
I don't own the house or have any land. I just want to live alone to be a man, to face the difficulties by myself and be independent.
My parents take care of my school fees so I just pay for everything else.
I spend most of my money on food every month for me and my cousin. Here in Abidjan, food is very expensive. If you want to eat very well you need to spend more.
I face many difficulties because when I'm managing my business myself I cannot study very well.
I'm wasting my time and often I'm very angry because I see my friends go to school but I'm obliged to stay here and manage my business.
I become very sad and very angry because my aim is not to stay here. My aim is to go beyond and be excellent in my studies.
'I will be rich'
My dream is to become a businessman but here in Ivory Coast it's not easy to start that right now so I would like first of all to be a teacher and then if I get some money I will set up my own business.
Of course I am afraid of losing my business because it pays for my life.
During the crisis I had to stop working; I lost everything; I had to spend all my savings just to live, to eat.
Now I put money aside every day. I started my savings again just five months ago because I want to buy a computer. Maybe in three months I will have enough money to buy one.
Right now I don't find I have enough money to do what I want to do because I need to pay for so many things so it's not easy to start a good business.
If one of my brothers calls me and says he needs money, I give him some money. I have two younger brothers and three sisters; I'm the eldest.
I cannot say I'm wealthy but I cannot say I'm poor because if I'm living it means I can sustain my life.
I don't like the word poor because if you have this in your mind it brings you down.
I'm convinced I will be rich one day. I would like to reach my goals.
If I am able to pay my food, buy my clothes it means I have something. I am not nothing.
I am a security guard in the east of Abidjan but I live in Yopougon [in the west].
Transport is very expensive in Abidjan so if I had to go from my house to my work every day it would cost a lot of money because it's far away.
So I sleep here with a friend during the week and go home at the weekends [where] life is good because things are cheaper there.
Other areas, like here where I work, are more expensive.
I live with my younger cousin in a one-room house.
He is staying with me so he can go to school here. He helps with the food bills but he doesn't have very much.
When I wake up in the morning my problems begin, truly, because I have to first find food and then I have to help my cousin. If I had more money I could help more.
This work is tiring. I start at 6.30pm and finish at 6.30am but what other work can I do?
'I want a family'
My father died in 2004 and that's when I stopped going to school because I had to work to find money.
It was hard to find work then because it was just after the first crisis. Everyone fled to Abidjan and everybody needed jobs.
I don't have any savings or any emergency fund. There is nothing in my bank account.
Everything I earn goes on rent, bills and food. There's nothing left for savings.
When there's a death in my family I go to my friends for help, to give me a little something. It's like that.
Yes I am scared if I lose my job because there will be nothing to pay for my rent.
Where will I find money? If I lose my job there will be many problems for me.
I don't have a computer and I've probably only been on the internet four or five times in the last five years.
It is very rare for me to visit a cyber cafe. I just don't have the money.
After all the bills there is no money left. If there is anything, I give it to my cousin or I use it for transport to go home.
But there is usually nothing - 50,000 CFA ($100) a month is too small to live on.
When you're sick it is serious because there is no money for the hospital.
I find small treatments or drugs from people who sell them on the street.
There are many challenges. I want to see a better life, a better life for me.
I want to have a wife and children but what food can I give them?
I need money to give them a life and send them to school. I don't want them to suffer.
When life is better for me I can have a family.
Do you think the middle class can drive growth in Africa?
In my opinion, the middle class in Africa can drive the African economic growth but on the other hand it poses a threat to the continent. This is due to the fact that the middle class on one hand offer a great avenue to African governments to gain more taxes to develop the continent and also various telecommunications companies such as MTN, Airtel etc together with mobile phone manufacturing companies like Samsung, Nokia, HTC etc will benefit in terms of subscriptions and purchases leading to the establishments of many branches on the continent; the end result being more employment for skilled and unskilled youth in Africa. On the negative side, the so called rising middle class has and will continue to give rise to a more consuming African society because the continents manufacturing base, though is said to be increasing is still small, giving rise to imports which leads to capital flight thereby robbing the continent of the little money it needs to embark on developments programmes that will uplift more of its people that find themselves in poverty. -- Christiana Afua Nyarko, Accra, Ghana
Yes I do believe the middle class can drive the African economy, because the middle class is a cash driven economy for the most part. The pay for their goods and services. Unlike the middle class the upper class usually deal more on credit and assumption of gain and when things go wrong they turn to the middle class to foot the bill by raising the cost of living to which the upper class have a say. Upper class owns houses and businesses that middle class folk utilise. -- Moses Sikaala, Bonn, Germany
Yes the middle class can drive economic growth and also political development in Africa. Just like everywhere else, this can only happen if universal education is made available to all or the majority of the population. -- Jide Aje, Detroit, US
It's so painful to read or hear about all the troubles an individual has to go through to get a better life. God has promised for the daily bread and butter and he put his people on to a very hard road for life. I think the country's government should support the people who are really fighting to survive. Initiatives should be taken by the government's department of country's citizen, well-being. Wherein, the initiatives for this section of society should have programme where they can make handicrafts, paper bags, candles etc which can be sold out in the domestic as well as international markets. -- Priyanka Masih, Delhi, India
I think if the middle class is well empowered, they can drive growth in Africa. Unfortunately, there's really no real middle class even in Nigeria. It's either you are upper or lower class. The so-called middle class does not have access to basic amenities of life. In Nigeria for instance, the middle class has to be a "government" of its own, providing water - via borehole; providing electricity - via small electricity generators…; providing security - via street vigilante group; providing roads - via community, street or area efforts through contribution. These are what should be available to have the real middle class. That is why Africa (especially Nigeria) is not growing. The real sector of the economy is dead in Africa! -- K C Aniedo, Lagos, Nigeria
I wonder what standards the Adb used to categorise these men as middle class. No disrespect, but in Nigeria, these gentlemen would never be considered as middle class. I earn more than a $500/month and I don't think I have attained that middle class position yet. These men are lower class and they are really the engine room that Africa needs. This much I agree with. -- Yahya, Kaduna, Nigeria
I am just wondering if middle class is the same as middle income? Because if so then Koffi cannot be classified as middle class based on his monthly earnings. In Kenya, he would definitely fall under the low income category. The middle class are classified as those who earn about $250 a month and above. -- Irebne, Nairobi, Kenya
To live a middle class life in Nigeria and in most parts of Africa u need at least $1000 to $3000 monthly.. .so honestly I don't know how you can classify this guys as middle class especially since they leave in Abidjan which is an expensive African city. -- James Ibrahim, Calabar, Nigeria
Sometimes I wonder what yardstick the global finacial organisations like IMF and others use to measure classes of incomes in Africa. Imagine, IMF and World Bank recently claimed that Ghana has attained middle income status which is contrary to the situation on the ground. The Ghanaian government about two years ago was boasting of his economic achievements in relation to the IMF assertion that Ghana has reached the middle status. In connection to that, a government official was asked on an interview about the standard used in measuring the middle income status within the country and he made a claim that yes indeed Ghana is now a middle income country because now an ordinary Ghanaian could afford to buy second-hand television set and fried rice. So I asked myself how can a government official who holds a doctorate degree in economics could make such a statement? Do we benchmark the measurement of the income classes in the country with the Western world or is ours different? Because I know for sure that in Western Europe these things that he was attributing the middle income status are insignificant with regards to the measuring of income classes. -- William Bentum, Aahus, Denmark