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Pop culture is the biggest influencer of African youth, report

Pop culture is the biggest influencer of African youth, report

Pop culture is the biggest influencer of African youth, according to the Who is Influencing Who? Unpacking Youth and Influence in Africa report.

This latest report by Africa No Filter investigates Africa’s influence on the world, its influences on African youth, and how dominant narratives about Africa shape the youth’s perception of the continent. The research interviewed 4500 people aged between 18 and 35 in Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Morocco, Egypt, Uganda, Kenya, Zimbabwe and South Africa. 

57% of respondents said pop culture has the biggest influence, followed by the US and Europe (45%), and politicians (31%). Regionally, pop culture had the strongest sway in Kenya (87%) and Zimbabwe, while West African respondents (65%) perceived the US and Europe as more influential.

According to 73% of the survey respondents, African countries – especially South Africa, Nigeria and Egypt – have a global influence. However, the respondents also recognised that many negative stereotypes of Africa are perpetuated, and that these damaged how the world sees the continent. Indeed, about 45% of respondents stated that these stereotypes had influenced their own perceptions negatively.

However, despite this, 60% of respondents still said they loved their country and the This positive view is likely because respondents did not show a strong reliance on mainstream media in their decision-making. Instead, they were mainly influenced by popular culture, social media, their communities, their friends and families, religion and, to some extent, cultural practices. While respondents recognised that in their own countries, politicians (58%) and business leaders (33%) had the most power, these did not influence respondents strongly.

The only time respondents said politicians had a strong influence on them was when they had to decide about who to vote for; even then, 43% of North African respondents indicated that no one swayed their voting decisions. Beyond being personally influenced by social media, 71% of respondents felt they could use social media to challenge stereotypes of Africa.

While their confidence in this regard could be rooted in techno-optimism, several examples cited in previous research point to good reasons for believing that social media empowers young Africans to engage in narrative-changing social media, through using hashtags. The data in this report, alongside existing literature, strongly point to the relevance of using social media and popular culture to shift narratives about the continent, even though young Africans are influenced by an array of other factors.

Given that stereotypical narratives about Africa are abundant, the report asked young Africans what they believe to be the dominant negative stories about the continent in movies. 54% said that common negative narratives were about crime and corruption, followed by narratives set in underdeveloped cities (41%) and depicting uneducated, unexposed Africans (33%). 

Moky Makura, Executive Director, Africa No Filter: ''This is a must-read for any organisation working with and in Africa because it unpacks what influences the largest demographic in the continent. Sadly, African youth haven’t escaped the impact of negative stereotypes but the good news is that it hasn’t defined their perceptions - and that has a lot to do with social media, and the agency it gives them.''

Key findings from the report:

Social media is powerful

71% of respondents believed they could challenge negative stereotypes about the continent on social media. While the report does not dig into the origins of this belief, previous research has turned up several examples of how young Africans have – and continue to – shift negative stereotypes at a global level. 

Love for country and continent

Even though 45% of respondents believed their perceptions had been shaped by negative narratives about the continent, 60% still loved their country and the African continent. Only 18% of respondents indicated that they would rather live in the United States or Europe and only 20% believed that there are fewer opportunities on the African continent than elsewhere.

The power of pop culture

The main influences on respondents were pop culture (57%), social media (27%), family and friends (44%), religion (74%) and their communities’ cultural practices (54%). While 45% of respondents believed that other African youths were strongly influenced by the United States and Europe, they stated that, for them, family and friends had the biggest influence.

Politicians are influential, but they don’t influence the youth

Although 58% of respondents said politicians were the most influential people in their country, only 11% said they were influenced by politicians. The only time respondents said they were influenced by politicians was when making voting decisions (51%). 

Movies perpetuate stereotypes

For 54% of respondents, the most common narratives about Africa in movies were about crime and corruption. 41% said they were stories about underdeveloped cities. 75% of respondents believed these stories created a negative perception of the continent, with Kenyans (83%), Ghanaians and Zimbabweans (82% each) most convinced of the negative impact.

Read the full report here.


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