Nairobi 16 9

The rise and fall of Africa's bureaucratic bourgeoisie: public employment and the income elites of postcolonial Kenya and Tanzania

By Rebecca Simson

In 1961 Frantz Fanon scathingly characterised the emerging African elite as a bourgeoisie of the civil service. Many others have since described Africa’s public sector employees as a privileged rentier class that grew disproportionately large in relation to the continent’s under-developed private sector. Is this characterisation accurate? Using household budget survey and administrative data from Kenya and Tanzania, this paper aims to situate public sector employees in two African countries within their respective national income distributions and establish the share of high-income households that were headed by public servants. It finds that while public sector employees formed a considerable share of the top 1% - 0.1% at independence, their share of the broader middle class was never that large and fell substantially over the postcolonial era.

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