Feb 12, 2019 | By Sandra Halliday
Futures, the global WGSN summit, arrived in Cape Town on November 9th for a full day of thought-provoking content. With a focus on the Future Consumer and Africa, more than 100 brands and creative leaders from the fashion, lifestyle and retail industries joined the discussion and three big ideas came out of the day.
Digital youth rising
Africa’s future is definitely young: by 2020, the average age of the African consumer will be 20. This generation is different from any other generations before. Talking about South Africa specifically, young citizens “inherited a broken system: high unemployment rates have put them under pressure and trust in institutions is only 15% compared to 40% globally. This generation is no longer buying into the system like previous generations.” Duncan Maclennan, Strategy and director for AndPeople, a South African creative youth agency.
The growing digital and social media platforms are a form of power and empowerment. With internet penetration at 31.2% in 2017 (the world’s average is 51.7%) and social media channels like Facebook, WeChat and WhatsApp growing rapidly, young Africans are redefining their aspirations of what they want and how they want to be perceived. Young Africans are an unapologetic generation powered by confidence and technology: we are seeing a true African Renaissance where it is no longer about being just ‘African’, but being ‘from Africa’.
From ‘African’ to ‘from Africa’
Africans want to celebrate their own identity and, with this confidence expected to grow further, cultural exchanges between the continent and international countries will increase with more cultural export from Africa foreseen. Made locally is the new luxury. “If we think of luxury products in terms of craftsmanship and not a hefty price tag, Africa is the greatest exporter of luxury goods” multi-media artist Trevor Stuurman said. More importantly, Stuurman believes that, as Africans, ‘we need to own our culture and monetise it’. According to Brian Mtongana, Head of Design at Woolworths, the narrative about Africa in media needs to change faster from poverty or crises to the creative revolution currently happening. He used the example of his Yswara gourmets teas project as a successful global export case study of homegrown luxury product.
The entrepreneurship era
The anti-establishment, anti-mass African consumers will create solutions where they do not find any from institutions or brands. In the absence of opportunities in the old system, they are creating their own. If something doesn’t exist, they will create it. “Entrepreneurship and creative collaboration is the new norm.” said Michael Leslie, Founder of AndPeople. This, together with the societal shift from ‘me’ to ‘us’, from ‘what we have’ to ‘what we stand for’, will mean collaboration will be at the heart of the changes the new consumers will ask brands. Luceny Fofana, Global Senior Communications Manager for adidas Originals, said that ‘brands can engage with this new class of entrepreneurial consumers through collaboration’. It is less about the brand, it is increasingly more about how brands can help consumers to connect over a shared vision.
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