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African middle classes are growing in numbers and purchasing power. They form a significant share of urban populations and command a majority of urban resources. This paper examines the spatial practices of Africa鈥檚 new urban-based middle classes and the implications for urban transformations. The focus is on households in the lower end of the spectrum, which form the majority of and account for most of the remarkable growth of Africa鈥檚 middle classes. The paper draws attention to the middle classes as significant actors in the local housing systems, informal land markets and incremental construction practices commonly associated with the urban poor. Property investments are crucial for understanding how moderately resourceful households strive to achieve the kind of long-term security and upwards social mobility commonly associated with the middle classes. Through their investments, the middle classes shape informal urban expansion processes, co-finance settlement upgrading and produce socially diverse neighborhoods.


Gratitude to the residents of Dar es Salaam and Mwanza, who generously gave their time to participate in this research, to indispensable research assistants John Williams and Paul Mizzah Charles and to Professor Wilbard Kombe and Associate Research Professor Alphonce Kyessi for facilitating fieldwork in Tanzania.

Disclosure statement

No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors.

Additional information


The research of the lead author was carried out with the support of the Carlsberg Foundation.The research for this paper is part of a project funded by DFID EARH and titled The Urban Land Nexus and Inclusive Urbanization in Dar es Salaam, Khartoum and Mwanza, led by the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex.

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