Nancy Birdsall, a key figure in the development world, spoke to CDE’s executive director, Ann Bernstein, about the role of the middle class in reducing poverty, why developing countries should not fear automation and digitisation, and why contraception is the single most important technology for development.
A middle-class society is one in which at least 50 to 60 percent of households have an income per person of at least $10 per day, with the country’s median income close to or above $10 per day. On this definition, South Africa is not a middle-class society.
According to Birdsall, the middle class can help to reduce poverty by paying taxes and holding the government accountable for its actions. “The middle class thrives on a level playing field where there are no insider privileges, and where corruption is minimised, so the middle class demands fair and equitable treatment from government.”
Birdsall believes that “development only becomes assured once there is a large group of people who are investors and consumers, and who make their government responsive to their needs and demands”, until then, “development remains fragile in the face of economy-wide or world-wide recessions”.
Cas Coovadia, CEO of Business Unity South Africa, opened the event. He lauded CDE for being “the go-to place for critical thinking on economic growth, social development, and the role of business in development.”