Three lessons about Gen Z in Asia and Africa – Part II

In the first part of this series, we explored the impact that a positive future outlook has on Gen Z, what this means when trying to engage with them and how this differs between developing and developed countries. In this second blogpost, we focus on another external factor that causes core differences between Gen Z in developing and developed markets: access to information.

Gen Z is the first generation that was born in a world where you can access any type of information, 24/7, with the click of a button. Since a very young age, the digital world has exposed them to people, knowledge and experiences beyond their immediate reality. This ability to learn anything is so embedded in their lives that they find it difficult to conceive of a different state of being – unlike older generations, who actually experienced the pre-digital world and the transition from it.

Yet, this empowerment comes at a price. In countries such as Germany, the USA and Brazil, we heard many stories where constant exposure of one’s self and to others was a leading cause of envy and anxiety. To offset this negative effect, Gen Z in these countries have devised strategies such as going on airplane mode for a whole weekend, deleting online friends, erasing old social media posts, or even getting rid of entire accounts. One of our research participants in the US for instance described why she prefers to post on VSCO rather than on Instagram. On VSCO, people cannot like or comment on her posts, so she feels she can express herself better, without the pressures of other’s approval or appreciation. For her, and for many others in her generation, the arguments against “being connected” have become very prevalent and mature, so it is not uncommon for them to do a digital detox every now and then and intentionally restrain their use of technology.

In contrast, in developing countries, where access to technology and information is lower and newer than in the US or Europe, Gen Z’s perception of technology and digital interactions is still quite healthy and positive. In Kenya, for example, Gen Z are aware of online risks; but privacy violations, identity theft or scams are much more top-of-mind than the envy or anxiety that stem from social media exposure. Interestingly, this awareness does not hinder online behaviours in a notable way, and a genuine interest towards technology’s advantages and capabilities prevail. In Indonesia, concerns about the negative impact of technology did not feature much. Instead we heard positive appraisals towards influencers, stories of people connecting with strangers on Facebook and later becoming friends, nonchalance about having and online and an offline personality, and many more of the like.

This enthusiastic attitude towards technology and all things digital does not mean that Gen Z in developing countries are naïve or digitally immature. They know and understand the associated risks. What it does mean is that their motivations and barriers to engage with others through technology differ to those that predominate in Europe or the Americas. In these continents, if businesses are to engage with this new generation of customers, they will need to consider principles such as safety, privacy, or control. In developing markets, exploration, discovery, or unfamiliarity are more likely to resonate with Gen Z.

The final part of this series will focus on the third and last factor: the role of authorities.

April 18, 2019