April 27, 1994 has a special meaning in South Africa: citizens of all races were allowed to take part in the elections for the first time. The African National Congress (ANC) party won a sweeping victory and Nelson Mandela became the first black elected president of the country.
Two decades later, May 7 will be the first election since Mandela’s death and the first in which the so-called ‘Born-free’ generation are eligible to vote.
The ‘Born-free’ generation, also named ‘The Mandela’ generation, who were born after Apartheid, now accounts for 40% of the South African population.
Based on ‘The Next Normal’ research, Viacom has looked at every angle of the lives, attitudes, beliefs and behaviors of the ‘Born Free’ generation.
The older generation often criticises them for not being politically involved and not aware enough of the struggles of the nation in the past. It is confirmed when we asked this age group about the most important historical events, 60% consider that ‘World Cup 2010’ is the #1 top event in South Africa, surpassing the political events such as ‘Zuma presidency’ and ‘Rise and fall of Malema’ (both scoring 53% as an event which mattered a lot to them).
However, elders underestimate one important thing: the ‘Born- free’ generation is very proud of being South African (81%) and appreciate the diversity of its country.
The mentality is changing in this multicultural country that counts more than 11 official languages. Today, open-mindedness and tolerance strongly define this new generation (94% describe themselves as tolerant). 98% believe that ‘It is your responsibility to treat all people with respect, regardless of race, gender, religion, political viewpoint or sexual orientation’ compared to the global average of 93%.
Concerns are also evolving. For them, unemployment is still the biggest issue of the country with a 24.1% unemployment rate* in January 2014; 72% name this as the #1 problem they would want to solve. ‘World End hunger’ comes second (44%). 31% of South African young people also consider that ‘free university education’ is a top concern, much higher compared to other countries (the global average being 18%).
Challenges are now different but this ‘Born-free’ generation is more than ready to overcome them. What we learned from our ‘The Next Normal’ Research is that the South African ‘born free’ generation is incredibly positive and confident about the future (95% agree they always look for the positive), even more than the young people of the rest of the world. 93% of young South Africans believe that ‘they have the potential to change the world for the better’ (vs. 88% global).
Even if the next voting might be less intense than in 1994, the election on May 7th announces a new era… without Mandela but with a generation full of hope and determination to look to the future.
Julie Lefevre is Senior Director of Research and Insights for Viacom International Media Networks – Southern Europe, Middle East and Africa.
Base for all data from The Next Normal: age 20-30; n = 235 South Africa / 7,498 global
* Source: www.Tradingeconomics.com 2014