A young teenage boy dashes across the Serengeti in Kenya, after he spots a wild buck in the corner of his eye. The sudden spurt of energy resonates with him because of his inherent need to eat that night.
Just next door a young Tanzanian girl walks over 8 miles to pick up the local newspaper to catch up on daily news. This is followed by her composing a hand-written letter to her friend in a nearby city. No, this is definitely not the habits of a typical millennial in Africa. Unfortunately these types of narratives of the African continent are still far too frequent. Despite these types of narrow perspectives of Africa’s narrative being mocked in popular culture, it still finds its way of creeping up in the most subtle ways.
The truth of the matter is that most young persons on the African continent are quite tech savvy, has a smart phone and actually use social media on a frequent basis. In fact, social media has become an integral part of an Afrillenial’s (a term used to describe African millennials in the age group 15-24.) life – socially, for education, for staying connected to the world and understanding what is happening around them.
Consider the perspective of a recent survey conducted by Geopoll of Afrillenials. It found that about 60% of Afrillenials use social media as their main source of information. Traditional forms of media has taken a step back to Tweets and Facebook updates. This type of behavior ties in with the daily habits of an Afrillenial – over 57% indicated that they use their smartphones whilst busy watching television. 35% of Afrillenials admitted to using their smartphones in bathrooms.
The Gepopoll study which was conducted cross nationally in African countries such as Nigeria, Kenya, Senegal, Uganda, Tanzania, South Africa revealed that there is a growing culture around sharing, liking, retweeting as part of every component of life. Taking a step back, this is quite a big significance for a continent whose narrative has often been clouded by the cynical hard African lifestyle as described above. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter play a large role in keeping Afrillenials up to date on what is happening around them.
A long running Twitter hashtag #TheAfricaTheMediaNeverShowsYou is an example of this. This hashtag played a dual role in changing perspectives. It allowed for Africans to engage on Twitter on a global scale. It also demonstrated with pictures the beauty of Africa and how quickly a social media trend can influence a larger narrative.
It is estimated that the number of Afrillenials will double by 2045. Coupled with this, the smart phone penetration is expected to improve manifold and internet penetration quadrupled. These indicators all point in the direction of how Afrillenials will likely headline and determine social media trends around the world quite soon. It is no surprise that Google and Facebook have gone head to head for contribution towards fiber internet on the African continent. Smartphone penetration, internet access and high costs of data are a well-known problem on the African continent. As seen in countries such as South Africa and Nigeria, these limitations are not permanent and once opened creates a world of social media opportunity.
Not surprisingly, only 25% of Afrillenials used television as a source of information and an even lower 6% use newspaper as a source. The most popular platform amongst Afrillenials is Whatsapp at 56%. Facebook on the other hand came in 2nd at 31%. Almost half (56%) were involved in 1-3 Whatsapp groups actively on a daily basis. Traditional is no longer the norm as social media is what makes sense amongst Afrillenials.
The social media story in Africa is a worthwhile one to follow. A continent that has often been one or two years behind the trends may be headlining it very soon. This is firstly because the fixed narrative and limited lens is being removed and is evident with the huge investments in the continent. The other is the highly active and growing Afrillenial market that will really push the social media agenda of the future.