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Marketers who want to build brands in Africa need to know how young Africans think, says Robyn de Villiers, CEO and chair of Burson-Marsteller Africa. “Empowered by a new, technology-enabled world order and the loosening of previously restrictive social hierarchies, young, cosmopolitan Africans are taking a bold approach to creating their own futures,” she says. “While the traditional narrative of hardship and struggle still contains some elements of truth, African youth are renouncing these stereotypes and bringing their A-Generation game – providing brands with opportunities for more creative and daring ways of engagement.”

The company recently released the A-Generation Study, which reveals six trends among the continent’s youth. They include a desire to throw off the past and proudly celebrate African achievement. According to the report there is a spirit of renewal in Africa where possibilities and potential outweigh the realities of hardship and struggle.  The younger generations are proudly African, self-motivated, self-reliant and bold. 

The second trend is that of striving to get ahead, but without leaving others behind.In a world of “more” in Africa (more consumerism, education, access and connection through technology, and more voices able to be heard) there is a hunger to have and own more. Alongside this aspiration for wealth creation, and the dream of improved well-being and quality of life, there are also social concerns and deep-rooted human connections – above all, a feeling that if you are a high-achieving A-teamer you should also be raising the rest of your team up behind you. 

Another trend is that of aspirational youth thriving as entrepreneurs.Against a canvas of aspirations, an “I want” attitude, a need to prosper and a need for independence, young Africans are relying less on conventional employment opportunities and adopting a more entrepreneurial mind-set to secure their own futures. They are turning away from traditional support systems (families and governments) to rely more on their own abilities.  

The fourth trend involves an expectation that personal data will be used to enhance brand interactions.A spin-off of greater consumerism across Africa is the growing spirit of ownership that the younger generations are adopting as participants in improving their brand experiences.  “I matter” is the message youth are communicating to brands. In the newly connected Africa, sharing real-time information, opinions and insights has become easy for them.  This has fuelled expectations that they will be listened to as individuals and that targeted, tailored offerings will personalise and enhance their brand experiences.

The fifth trend is that African youth are increasingly enthusiastic participants in fun, interactive and rewarding activities.Young Africans see themselves not as passive bystanders, but as engaged players in a process, looking for highly interactive brand experiences. In common with youth worldwide, they have limited attention spans and look to engage emotionally in unique and unusual ways.   They are looking to build relationships with brands that surprise and delight them but also create talk-ability, giving them a shared platform to get together and have fun.  They place high value on recognition and reward – which means they want to be thanked for their participation.

The final trend is that young Africans demonstrate an emerging spirit of activism.During difficult social and economic times, new questions are being asked about what it means to be African and what is relevant to African youth.  The status quo is being challenged with heightened social and economic debate. Even if not overtly activist, young consumers are certainly more actively interrogating and debating a wide variety of issues. They are demanding authenticity, transparency and accountability from their chosen brands and role models.

The big take-out: Burson-Marsteller Africa has released the A-Generation Study, which reveals six trends reflecting the new attitudes and priorities of African youth.

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