Africa Life: how SA’s Gen Z is reconnecting the country to Africa
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The third edition of Kantar’s Africa Life study* offers a telling perspective of SA in the age of Africa, where culture is the new currency. It’s time to focus on telling our new story for future generations by amplifying the African aspirations of 2021 and beyond: purpose, passion and ambition.
Africa is a concept from the outside world. It’s a special place where everything and its opposite lives together. We have breathtaking landscapes and extreme poverty; resilience and conflict; beautiful results and untold potential. But for those of us living in Africa, it’s also a continent of infinite realities, where the thread that unites us is a sense of shared identity.
There’s something about being in Africa that connects people in a deep way. It goes beyond race to a shared love of all that is Africa. That’s why Sub-Saharan Africa’s cultural explosion is reconnecting its citizens in ways they have not connected before.
The nuances of culture and how this is expressed across the continent offers opportunities to reset that cultural sense of connection to better Africa. Because culture connects the people of Africa, and this is the path SA is now embarking on. It is nascent, emerging and promising.
SA in the age of Africa is therefore more a celebration than a provocation of a country reconnecting to the rest of the continent it belongs to, establishing new connections and directions based on a sense of inclusiveness, and coming together to write the future. This may not have happened without Gen Z’s imprint, which is why we need to celebrate SA Gen Zers for setting the country on a new African journey.
It’s an interesting shift, as the country’s history was largely based on separation. Now, there’s recognition that it’s time to reunite at an African level, that separation has gone beyond geography. It’s present in people’s minds, lives and interactions and has largely worked both ways, with the rest of Africa long having felt that SA was not really part of Africa, and vice versa. But it’s time to flip the script as neither is complete without the other. The very fabric of all that makes up SA is African.
Building a better country to enable a better Africa
Political movements tell the story of a collective fight towards betterment, while culture, more than anything else, is charting the way towards unity, integration and oneness through a true sense of shared purpose. Gen Z is in the driving seat because by reconnecting SA to Africa, the agenda of SA’s Gen Z mirrors that of others on the continent. Recent protests led by the youth mirror events taking place in other parts of Africa, all towards the same ambition of building a better country, which in turn will enable a better Africa.
For a generation that experiences the world as one village, Africa is one compound. The SA/Africa divide is therefore a false dichotomy that Gen Z won’t entertain. They don’t just mind the gap — they bridge it.
So, while the events of July 2021 saw SA record the lowest levels of consumer confidence across Africa at the time of our fieldwork, already we’re seeing the green shoots of hope. At 77%, SA’s Gen Z remains the most hopeful group across the nation, showing significant confidence about their future and reigniting the powerful force of hope. We’re in the hands of this ultra-progressive generation, intent on bringing Africa together.
As I said at the Kantar BrandZ Most Valuable SA Brands launch, Madiba himself said it best:
The new SA is now at a tipping point and truly lives this mindset, which is all about courage and reframing hope as an essential value for any nation to nurture. Hope has long been seen as a driving force for emerging markets, and optimism as one of Africa’s greatest assets. SA’s Gen Z leads on that optimism in keeping the country afloat, for the situation right now and in the next five years.
Co-creating and telling the new African story for future generations
Much of that hope is based on a renewed sense of connection, as a growing proportion of SA Gen Z say they now feel more connected to people in other countries of Africa than any other generation.
It’s the promising opening of a new chapter and a new beginning for Africa, made all the more exciting and powerful as it inspires hope that SA’s Gen Z will indeed bring the continent together. This generation is offering the nation the opportunity to make peace with its own story and go on to write new pages, for the country and the continent as a whole.
That’s why cultural events on the continent aim to bring artists together with a strong sense of inclusion, like the Abuja Literary Arts Festival and African Leadership University’s Own Your Future initiative. When we think about the African youth, wherever they are across the continent, what unites them is much stronger than what separates them. It’s time to stand together and own that future.
Watch the video below:
This mission to celebrate all that is local while reconnecting with culture is dominant and, more than with any previous generation, SA’s Gen Z has what it takes to succeed. But they can’t do it alone. There’s a clear opportunity for brands to better connect with this generation of consumers, as they are looking for products and messages they can relate to and experiences that resonate with who they are and the environment they live in.
Amplify the African aspirations of 2021: Purpose, passion and ambition
Even if we don’t talk big themes such as purpose, passion and ambition, they’re the basis of life in Africa. The world is Gen Z’s playground and the internet their swing set, with Kenya, Nigeria and SA the most connected nations, sharing similar social profiles across Africa with a shared passion for local — an insight brands need to activate to be valued.
Like their counterparts on the continent, SA Gen Z is growing a profound interest for local flavours, textures and experiences, as well as for local brands over global brands. MTN serves as an example of this in action. This presents a huge opportunity for local ads that authentically feature vernacular languages**, as these resonate better with who SA Gen Zers are and what they care for.
In these times, the most valuable brands are those that see and better understand where this generation is heading, offering experiences that resonate with them as they’re in line with their aspirations. See the shifts they are triggering; explore the new trajectories they are shaping; and be part of the journey they’re on by helping them actualise their sense of belonging and leading the connection journey around Africanity.
We explore all these dimensions and more in Africa Life, where we partner with brands that are winning at delivering greater value for themselves and for consumers on the continent they love.
Find out more about the third edition of Africa Life, with a lens on Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal and SA, for all the insights and trends from digital to health and beauty, entertainment, finance and sustainability, so your brand can get to grips with the evolution of lifestyles, consumer behaviours and next trajectories in Africa.
*Kantar’s Africa Life study conducted 3,500 interviews across Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal and SA in July 2021.
**SA has 11 official languages or vernaculars
This article was paid for by Kantar.
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