African economies are currently undergoing dramatic changes, including a changing consumer base. Absolute poverty is reducing as a new class of consumer—the cusp group—emerges. This group (we call “cuspers”), which now accounts for 23% of sub-Saharan Africa’s population, covers a segment of active earners getting by on $2-$5 per day and straddling the formal and informal worlds. For this group, healthy credit markets could expand opportunity and enable upward mobility, helping to build a true middle class. But, for this to happen, credit needs to expand and to do so in healthy ways.
In the Credit on the Cusp project, we look at the experience of cusp group borrowers and the lenders who serve them in three distinctive markets—South Africa, Ghana, and Kenya—to better understand what healthy credit market development would mean for this group. We explore some ways donors and policymakers can help build credit markets that better enable upward mobility for Africa’s cuspers.