Africa as a continent has the youngest population, with 60% of its inhabitants under the age of 25, and a median age of 19. This generation presents the opportunity to reshape the way Africa consumes content and interacts with brands in the future, as the youth population is set to double by 2045.


Viacom Global Insights undertook to study this age group by focussing on Africa’s two economic powerhouses, namely Nigeria and South Africa. This study entailed polling online communities within both countries, and thus represents a sample of middle-class youth that have access to digital devices.


Youth on the continent is connected. Youth in both South Africa (82%) and Nigeria (79%) indicated that the one thing they couldn’t live without is their mobile phone. Mobile phones act as a portal for young people to engage with things that are important to them, including listening to music (64% in Nigeria, 40% in SA), fashion (46% in SA, 35% in Nigeria) and using the internet (61% in Nigeria and 54% in SA), which are the three most important things they can’t live without after their phones.


Phones and connectivity are a critical feature in how the youth, who are all digital natives, interact with one another and the world. Phones are tools that allow them to access everything from their friends to ordering food. This has created the phenomenon of super-cocooning, which is further discussed in our study, The Story of Us.


This age group also strongly believes that the people they surround themselves with, the language they use, and their online personas are key aspects of staying socially relevant in today’s world.


Social media still matters. Despite claims to the contrary, social media remains an important tool for this age group, with the majority in both Nigeria (70%) and South Africa (55%) claiming they use Facebook more than any other platform, followed by Instagram and Twitter. What is worth noting is that both countries’ youth make use of social media for the same reason: to see what is trending (55% in SA, 60% in Nigeria), followed by viewing friends’ updates and finding memes.


Cost is a consideration in content consumption. While music is one of the things that this age group indicates that they can’t live without, listening to it is not something they are necessarily willing to pay for. In both Nigeria and South Africa, youth indicated that they would prefer to use a streaming platform for free with adverts (63% in both countries) rather than pay for a premium, ad-free service (37% in both countries). The top platforms for streaming music in South Africa and Nigeria differ quite drastically, with Spotify being the service of choice in SA, while Nigerian youth prefer to use BoomPlay.


When it comes to video streaming, the top channel remains YouTube in both countries (80% in SA and 70% in Nigeria), followed by Netflix and Showmax. While more Nigerians are willing to pay for a video subscription than South Africans (43% versus 36%) the majority still prefers to stream for free with adverts.


Cost also matters when it comes to socialising. This age group indicated that when it comes to socialising, they primarily choose to stay indoors (33% in SA and 36% in Nigeria). This could be in part due to the cost of socialising outside of the home, or the role that phones and social media play in how the youth interact with one another. In Nigeria, the next most popular form of entertainment is theatre or cinema (21%) while in South Africa, the next activity of choice is to take road trips with friends (26%).


Brands have a role to play. This age group is still tolerant of brands, as indicated by their willingness to watch or listen to ads on streaming services, and their ongoing use of Facebook as their social media platform of choice. When they were polled regarding their top three brands, clothing products were top-of-mind, with Adidas and Nike being in the top three for both Nigeria and South Africa.


For brands looking to target youth on the continent, understanding the platforms that they choose to make use of, what they value as essential to their identity, and reaching out to them in the spaces they occupy, both physically and digitally, is key to connecting with African youth.