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The black middle class: The old problem of establishing those who are still new here

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The pandemic and other fiscal difficulties are undermining South Afica's ability to continue growing the black middle class the way it has before.
Photo: Getty Images
The pandemic and other fiscal difficulties are undermining South Afica's ability to continue growing the black middle class the way it has before. Photo: Getty Images

Renowned US poet, activist and recording artist Gil Scott-Heron once mused in his poem, I'm New Here, featuring Makaya McCraven: "I did not become someone different that I did not want to be. But I'm new here. Will you show me around…?"

While this opening line to the poem alludes to a spiritual awakening or personal growth and transformation, it has a slice of insight when projected upon the idea of the challenges associated with elevating to a higher socioeconomic station of life.

In South Africa, one of the great challenges that the ANC government took on was to create and grow a black middle class in the country and the economy. The government would move to use its resources to guide black masses to a higher station of life than apartheid gave them.

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