Industry Updates

South African Youth In The New Millennium

02 Jun 2011

The Alternative Consultancy has been at the forefront of research into South African youth since it conducted its first study, "Insight into Soweto Youth", in 1992.

The latest study, which will cover youth of all races and be conducted nationally, will go into field in the next month, but prior to that, The Alternative Consultancy has carried out its usual pre-study focus groups, to ascertain trends and changes. This year these were conducted amongst black respondents from Soweto, aged 16-22 years. The findings were a mix of the expected and totally unexpected and we have selected some items which will be of interest to marketers and advertisers :

1. Living conditions and family structures
Little has altered in this area since the first study 8 years ago. Due to poverty, unemployment and a lack of affordable housing, most young Sowetans are still living at home, in a variety of family combinations. The smallest number of residents per dwelling was 6 and the largest 11, with only 40% of those interviewed having their father living with them. Of these, most said that their father was, in fact, a stepfather. In 1997 we found that 25% of the young people interviewed lived in mother-headed households and had little contact with their fathers and this seems to be increasing.

All of those interviewed live in typical "matchbox" homes, in suburbs such as Zola, Mofolo, Dube, Naledi and Emndeni.

Poverty abounds in the families of most of those interviewed and the general consensus is that it is worsening. Most cite one or two breadwinners at home, supporting an entire household on relatively small salaries.

This generation is also bearing the brunt of the social problems prevalent in townships. All respondents claim to know someone amongst their peers who has committed or attempted to commit suicide, someone who is HIV positive or has AIDS or who has died from AIDS and someone who has been the victim of a serious crime. All of these young people also know other youths who are committing serious crimes.

Everyone in the groups has experienced, or is still experiencing, some form of trauma, such as;

  • Attempted rape
  • Family murder
  • Arrest
  • Harrassment by police
  • Family break-up/problematic relationships
  • Mental illness of parent
  • Serious car accident

    They claim that these situations have been building up over many years, resulting in the current "Lost Generation" in the townships, who are heavily involved in crime.

    Despite the seriousness of their problems, the young people interviewed remain positive about their own futures and are all actively working on improving their lot.

    2. Transport used
    All of those interviewed use taxis as their main form of transport on a regular basis. Several have friends with cars, but these tend to be used at weekends, for reaching shops and places of entertainment.

    3. Leisure
    Again, little has changed here since our last study. During the week, those who are still at school come home and do homework, visit friends, help with household chores and cooking, watch TV and listen to radio.

    There are still few facilities for young people in Soweto, either at school or in the various township suburbs. Only a handful mentioned doing anything at school after hours and this was mostly a few boys involved in soccer, rugby and cricket. Cricket appears to be an increasingly popular sport in Soweto. Only two girls are involved in sport - hockey and gym.

    Those who are finished school and not working tend to sleep a great deal, watch TV, listen to radio, do housework and visit unemployed friends. The boys claim that this is where crime begins.

    At weekends, however, Sowetans come alive, hanging out with friends for :
  • Parties
  • Visiting clubs in town
  • Visiting boyfriends/girlfriends
  • Movies
  • Going to shopping malls
  • Eating out
  • Going to church

    There has been growth in the number of times Soweto youth claim to eat out, with most of those interviewed claiming it is at least 3 times per month. Some of the girls with boyfriends who are working say it is often twice per week.

    Favourite places are McDonalds, Steers, Debonairs and Panarotti's.

    The unemployed and those temporarily without cash enjoy the ever popular "shisa nyama" outlets on the streets, where meat is braaied and consumed at tables outside.

    4. Spending patterns
    The most important things which young Sowetans spend on are :
  • Clothes
  • Movies
  • Clubs
  • Eating out
  • Alcohol

    In previous studies, young people said that they spend on CD's and music festivals. They now openly say that they purchase stolen CD's and wait for free festivals as the entry charges have become prohibitive.

    It is still common practice for boys to pay for everything on dates, which they claim is what pushes them into crime.

    5. Favourite places to shop.
    In previous studies, from 1992-1996, the youth claimed to shop mostly in the Johannesburg CBD, with a small percentage shopping in up-market malls. Since 1997, the number shopping in the CBD has continued to decline, as access, by both public and private transport, to malls has improved.

    In the latest research, the CBD is said to be used for paying accounts and buying basic commodities, where lengthy browsing is unnecessary and where one can go in and out quickly by taxi.

    The malls remain places where one goes for an outing, which includes shopping, eating out and movies. Favourite malls include :
  • Eastgate
  • Southgate
  • Sandton City
  • Hyde Park
  • Rosebank

    New additions, featuring for the first time on the list, are :
  • Balfour Park
  • Dobsonville Mall
  • Fourways Mall

    Favourite shops include :
  • Moolla's
  • Foschini
  • Truworth's
  • Queenspark
  • Replay
  • Oxygen
  • Cameroon
  • Edgars
  • Soviet
  • Third Base

    6. Sources of income
    As in previous studies, this is usually from parents and family members. Girls openly say, in addition, their boyfriends pay for many items, including clothes and entertainment.

    Not one of the youth interviewed has any form of regular part-time job and none has ever tried to find one. One girl sews clothes and does hair at home on an ad-hoc basis and another is registered with an in-store promotions agency.

    One new trend, which the boys claim is growing at a rapid rate, is the "Sugar Mummy". They say increasing numbers of older women (aged from 30 - 50) who are divorced or widowed and are working or run businesses are seeking out the company of younger men. Most of the boys interviewed feel there is nothing wrong with this and told us, "Girls have done it for years, so why shouldn't we enjoy the same thing?!"

    Over and above assistance from mature ladies, young males continue to tell us of their involvement in crime in order to sustain themselves and their families. This they justify, saying they have absolutely no choice. All say that if they could find jobs or legal sources of income they would leave crime as there are too many risks of being arrested or even shot by police or victims.

    The boys are pressurised at home and by girlfriends to find money and are rarely asked where it has come from.

    7. Media Consumption
      i) Radio
      Sowetan youths still listen to radio on a daily basis and say that they are actually listening longer, in place of many of the TV programmes they used to watch.

      Yfm and Metro are still the most popular stations and respondents switch between them, according to the DJ and programme.
      However, they do also listen to other stations, both out of choice and when other family members are listening.

      These additional stations include all the vernacular stations, particularly Ukhozi fm and Lesedi and Khaya and Soweto Community Radio (now Jozi fm).

      ii) Television
      All still watch daily, but claim to watch less, in terms of total hours, saying that the quality and standard of SABC programming have deteriorated.

      All claim to watch e tv and say that they have always watched it since it began. Some say this has not increased, whilst others say that they definitely watch it more.

      Channels watched are :
    • E tv 100% of sample
    • SABC 1 100%
    • M Net open time 60%
    • SABC 3 50%
    • SABC 2 25%

      Favourite programmes:
      This can be still be summed up as soaps, music shows, chat shows and movies, but the content and programmes in those categories have
      changed since our last study.

      SABC 3's family programmes at 7pm feature for the first time. Most frequently mentioned programmes were :
    • Generations 90%
    • Sunset Beach 40%
    • Days of our Lives 30%
    • Bold & the Beautiful 30%

      Others mentioned :
    • Phat Joe
    • Oprah
    • Mabaleng
    • Studio Mix
    • Isidingo
    • Viper
    • Jag
    • Channel 0
    • Special Assignment
    • Outer Limits
    • X-files
    • Two Way
    • Touched by an Angel
    • Selimathunzi
    • Mini-series

      Many lamented the loss of programmes such as Inside Info, Teen Summit and New York Undercover and said that movies are of a poor quality. 1996/1997 were said to have been the golden years on SABC in terms of highly watchable fare.

      Generally, the youth tell us that they are much more selective about TV and claim to watch less.

      iii) Print media
      90% of those interviewed read the Sowetan on a regular basis, saying it is brought home by family members. Other favourite newspapers are still ;
    • City Press
    • Sunday Times
    • The Star

      The Citizen has also featured, with a small mention, for the first time in any of our studies.

      Magazines continue to have a low regular readership, with the highest being Y magazine with 30% claiming to read it.

      True Love, followed by Cosmopolitan and Elle, are most popular amongst girls, but with only 20% claiming to read them.
      A handful of girls read Fair Lady and Femina, but rarely.

      The boys claim only occasional readership of magazines such as Kick Off.

      All claim not to read You and Drum as frequently as before.

      Lack of money appears to be the biggest issue when it comes to magazine readership, along with perceived poor content. Several of those interviewed asked what happened to magazines such as Juice,
      Next and e-vibe, saying that the content of these was good.

    8. Favourite adverts
      i) TV
      Some interesting choices given in this section as follows:
    • Red Bull - all ads
    • Crown Cider - white guy goes to kwaito club
    • Standard Bank - one day cricket
    • Vodago - all ads

      ii) Radio
    • Coca Cola - with the musician E-smile
    • Red Bull - all of them
    • Lovers' Plus condoms

      iii) Outdoor
    • Radio 702
    • The Springboks are coming

      A general comment about advertising was that it is only recently that car ads show black people driving them, but still not many do so.

    9. Favourite fashion brands
  • All Star
  • Dickies
  • Carvela
  • Soviet
  • Diesel
  • Levi's
  • Nike
  • Tommy Hilfiger
  • Dolce & Gabana
  • Kurt Geiger
  • Lacoste
  • Rocco Barocco
  • Gucci
  • Guess
  • DKNY

    For further information on the groups conducted so far or the proposed full study, contact:

    Gill Mkhasibe of
    The Alternative Consultancy

    Tel 011 402 5944/5
    Fax 011 402 1819
    Cell 082 574 3826