To ensure that we are all on the same page on the subject of middle class, it is important to attempt an explanation of the phrase ‘middle class’ in the Nigerian context. The reason being that the phrase which was popular in
There are also other classifications which have been popularised by marketers abroad such as Buppies (Black urban professionals), DINKS or DINKYS (married couples or partners earning dual incomes with no kids yet), and SCUPPIES (Socially conscious upwardly mobile persons). Others include Baby Boomers and Generation X, phrases made popular in the West by the political and economic successes of the likes of Microsoft’s Bill Gates, former
Lately, there have been some other additions to the increasing family of names used to describe social groups, and these for strategic reasons are being driven by the guys in marketing who seem bent in pigeonholing consumers into one or several categories either for convenience or to make target messaging and marketing easier. The new additions include Digital Natives and I-Pod Generation (phrases that refer to consumers whose lives are intertwined with technology). Members of these groups exhibit similar characteristics such as regular internet shopping and online transactions, active participation on social networking sites such as bebo.com, myspace.com, facebook.com etc. They are regular users of emails and the internet and may not go through the day without paying multiple visits to their virtual world (they call it browsing), it could be just to quickly update their blog and tell the world what they had for breakfast, or to chat on their Yahoo or MSN messenger.
The Digital Natives will rather watch videos on YouTube and other file hosting and sharing websites through which they also get their information than relying on established news channels such as BBC, CNN and NTA. They are also early adaptors of new technological products and services and were the ones that first went to town with their I-POD portable music devices to the envy of the Digital non-natives and technology laggards who may have wondered what the little earpieces stuck to their ears with distinctive white ropes were. Now the same group could be seen with their brand new I-PHONEs as if to say that they were indeed separated at birth with APPLE’s Steve Jobs.
It is becoming increasingly obvious that Digital Natives also reside in
It may be difficult to attempt to define age boundaries for people in this group, the reason being that the stifling economic conditions which Nigerians operated under in the past, and which they are just recovering from turned Nigeria into a nation of late achievers. This meant that many Nigerians were not able to make the expected smooth transition into the world of work or business from the time they graduated from school.
A conservative and fair view may suggest the age bracket for people in the middle class group to be between 25 and 50. Other characteristics of members of this group include possession of degrees and other qualifications having undergone a process of professional training in specialised disciplines, thus qualifying them to be called professionals as suggested by Friedson (1994) and Downie (1996).
They may probably be mid-level and senior level managers or their equivalents at their places of work, (they could also be junior level managers and employees). They have steady incomes which may seem to set them apart from members of other social groups. They may desire to spend their annual holidays with members of their families in several places within and outside
The Middle class classification as presently used in Nigeria is only a representative descriptor; it is not completely exclusive in any way, members of this group in Nigeria will probably fit into the B (Middle Class – Intermediate managerial, administrative or professional), C1 (Lower Middle Class – Supervisory or clerical and junior managerial, administrative or professional) and C2 (Skilled Working Class – Skilled manual workers) social group classifications as used in marketing. The other groups are A (Upper Middle Class – Higher managerial, administrative or professional), D (Working Class – Semi and unskilled manual workers) and E (Those at the lowest levels of subsistence – Entirely dependent on state, family and friends for long-term income).
It is not just for the fact that individuals in this group find themselves sandwiched in the middle of the socio-economic scale that they are described as the middle class, but also because of the key role that they are expected to play in the economy and also in the socio-economic lives of the groups above (A), and the ones below (D and E). They serve as both feeder group to the group above (A), and also serve as some kind of check, helping to keep the big guys above on their toes as the knowledge that the young guns are coming could help drive them to do more at work and for the country else their position will be taken, and the carpets pulled from under their feet. This group could also be seen to be aspirational, thus helping to motivate and challenge members of the groups below them (D and E) to work harder towards also stepping up the social ladder.
Kemi Gasper, Head of Retail and Consumer Banking at Oceanic Bank says that the bank’s Middle – Class Products are targeted at this unique group. “Our research showed that these group of highly skilled Nigerian professionals desire a set of products that satisfies their desire to enjoy comfortable lifestyles without having to wait for a couple of years until they have saved up enough money to buy a car or other household goods and appliances that will enrich the lives of their families”.
The likes of Professor Patrick Utomi, political and change activist have for long decried the near dearth of the middle class in
Many Nigerians may still remember with nostalgia life in
It is therefore great news, and something of joy to see that these groups of professionals who were neglected during our ‘lost’ years are gradually re-emerging. It is not really that they all went away or perhaps migrated en masse with their talents to other countries (while some did in search of greener pastures, most remained back still toiling and putting in the shift towards rebuilding Nigeria. Even some of those who left are now relocating back to
It is therefore interesting to note that things are changing; there are now products and services on offer by product vendors financed by banks targeted at
There is therefore an urgent need to not only maintain, but also increase the momentum and heighten the excitement currently being experienced by the middle class in
Dr. Mrs Cecilia Ibru, the CEO and managing director of Oceanic Bank says that Oceanic Bank is ready and prepared to meet the needs and expectations of
So what do members of middle class group themselves think? What are their expectations from banks, government institutions and other organisations wishing to key into the Nigerian middle-class market?
For Emmy Collins,
Nze Sunny Ogbu, an Abuja – based businessman wonders if business people like him will fit into the middle class description, “It is important that both the government and the middle class act in ways that also protect the interests of other members of the society. You don’t want to create a situation where only a certain group will be perceived to be doing well and progressing economically, while the other groups remain static. An even spread and balance will ensure that there is no revolt from the proletariats (masses) as a result of anger, envy or even perceived oppression”. Nze Ogbu said.
Charles Ikechukwu Okoli, a Lagos based banker who returned to Nigeria in 2007 after several years living in the United Kingdom wants the government to intensify efforts in the area of security of lives and property, and also in power generation “That will greatly enrich the quality of life in Nigeria and complement the efforts of the banks”, Okoli said.
It may seem therefore that provision of infrastructure, particularly affordable and decent housing, security of lives and property, adequate social amenities etc are key to satisfying the demands and tastes of the re-emerging middle –class in