Fine young Africans and the joys of Generation Y

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There is a trend the world over, I am told, where young Africans are taking the world by storm in the field of entrepreneurship.

These are young people, who live and think quite differently from the previous generation.

They seem somehow more suited to the digital age we now inhabit and bamboozle us with their supreme confidence and self-assurance.

Also known as the millennial generation, these young people were born sometime between the mid-’70s and the late ’80s.

The biggest defining characteristic among this generation is their familiarity with communications, media and digital technologies.

I have tried and tried to stretch and tweak both my birth date and mindset so that I too can belong in this celebrated generational space, but in spite of my best
efforts I remain firmly lodged in Generation X, the ones who followed the baby boomers.

According to About.com, “Generation X came of age in an era of two-income families, rising divorce rates and a
faltering economy.

Women were joining the workforce in large numbers, spawning a generation of ‘latch-key’ children.

As a result, Generation X is independent, resourceful and self-sufficient. In the workplace, Generation X values freedom and responsibility.

Many in this generation display a casual disdain for authority and structured work hours.

They dislike being micromanaged and embrace a hands–off management philosophy.”

By contrast, Generation Y does not find the hard-driving ambition and fast-track lifestyle of the Xers appealing.

Gen Y is willing to earn less if it means they get more
leisure time and can work flexible hours.

They prioritise family over work and are more concerned with work-life balance than with achieving at all costs.

This generation is heavily reliant on technology and
are true digital natives while some of us are more like digital immigrants!

AllAfrica.com reports under the heading “I’m an (Afri) can” that South Africa’s 18 years of democracy have created kids and teens fuelled by the promise of realising their potential.

A cluster of highly successful entrepreneurs have emerged and are idolised by “can-do” kids who want to
do the same.

Nigeria represents one of the major emerging markets for software companies.

Of the top 10 Africans making it in New York as rated by Forbes Africa magazine, five are from Nigeria. One of the five, Jide Zeitlin, who is partner and global operating officer of investment banking at Goldman
Sachs says:

“When you grow up in Nigeria, you have it in your blood — it’s a very commercial kind of environment.”

True to form he also owns a telecommunications outfit
in India, has his own investment firm and is a director of Coach Inc, one of America’s premier luxury brands.

For those of us in business, it’s worth noting that Generation Y is the consumer of the future.

And as such they represent our biggest customer base in the next five to 20 years. It would be useful to get to know how they think and operate in order to figure out the best ways to communicate with them.

Mike Saunders of DigitLab, a digital and social marketing company, ran a small study on Generation Y in South Africa.

Their findings will help you plan for tomorrow’s
customers:

50% of Gen Y uses digital platforms for communication and prefer Facebook and BBM over any other platform

85% have an email address, but only half of them check it more than once a month

99% use the Internet, most about
two hours a day

they do not regard Facebook as the internet

91% use Facebook

30% use Twitter

60% watch YouTube

50% use Google as a search engine, 50% use Facebook as a search engine

91% listen to the radio (during drive time)

64% read books

42% read the newspaper (shh don’t tell the editor!)

100% prefer cellphones over Internet

And if you’re still thinking about a business to get into in the future, here are Generation X’s choices:

They prefer the Internet over magazines

Restaurants are more appealing to them than fast food

They prefer healthy food over junk food

They’d rather pursue a tertiary education instead of getting a job

Choose their own music over radio

Would rather drink bottled water instead of fizzy drinks.

On Afribiz.com, Lauri Elliot writes about the rise of the Global African Youth Entrepreneur.

These are young Africans who have formed strong identities unique to them, but blended their African heritage and global exposure and experience.

Doesn’t that sound delightful? What’s interesting about the new networks of Global African Entrepreneurs is that they see themselves as creators and architects of
the future of Africa along all facets.

These young people are at ease in many different cultures and they can navigate business and social landscapes with both competence and confidence.

These young people are the future of Africa, so here’s to you, Generation Y.

Thembe Sachikonye writes in her personal
capacity. Readers’ comments can be sent
to localdrummer@newsday.co.zw. Follow
Thembe on www.twitter/localdrummer

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