OPINION: Learning from generation alpha during youth month
JOHANNESBURG - Just when we thought we weren’t being generationally categorised anymore, say hello to new kids on the block, Generation Alpha.
Researchers and popular media use the early 2010s as its starting birth years and the mid-2020s as ending birth years.
Named after the first letter in the Greek alphabet, Generation Alpha is the first to be born entirely in the 21st century and most members are the children of Millennials.
Over the years, humans have been segmented into various categories, namely Builders, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Generation Y (which I belong to), Generation Z and now the newbies Generation Alpha.
I’m never sure why it’s necessary to keep compartmentaliSing us, but I think one of the reasons is probably for more precise and targeted sales and marketing analyses (behaviours, trends, purchasing patterns, etc).
So who exactly are they?
Analysts predict that Gen Alpha should be the most educated and technologically immersed, the most impatient, strong-willed and also very independent. Their leadership style is to empower, but they also look up to leaders that inspire. They want things in real time and will aspire to live in a world where things are virtual.
The pandemic and how it has seriously adjusted our way of life actually suits them - where we go virtual and everyone is independent. I’m certain that my daughter, who turns two soon, is already a born and bred Gen Alpha.
As young as she is, she knows how to navigate my entire phone and find content that I had no idea was even there.
She knows instantly if I’m bullsh*tting her, she’s super impatient and she wants things like yesterday.
During Youth month, in commemoration of the 1976 Soweto uprising, I believe that all of us, young or old, should take a leaf out of the Gen Alpha book. Let’s be more inquisitive and strive to know and learn more, get more educated, become more talented and immerse ourselves in technology.
Let’s also inspire and empower those around us, set good examples for others to follow, in both our communities and workplaces (even if they’re still virtual).
We must remember it’s also okay to be impatient with our leaders – and demand that they step up to the plate when civic duty calls. The current pandemic has exposed the appalling (and actually inexcusable) inequalities that exist where many people go to bed starving, with no basic services, such as water, electricity and housing, where ugly racism and sexism rears its head. We must remain impatient and demand and nag until these atrocities are eradicated.
That’s what Gen Alpha would do.
According to writer Joe Myers, at the World Economic Forum 19 of the world's 20 youngest countries are in Africa and while a booming population can induce substantial economic growth, if healthcare, education, and economic needs are not met, there would be chronic youth unemployment, low productivity, and social unrest. Investing in human capital is crucial.
With this in mind, we have to ensure our youth get the best life-starts possible.
In addition to basic amenities from the get-go, we must rapidly advance progressive and future-minded policies that will inspire and create jobs for them, as well as platforms to build their own businesses – they are the futures of those 19 countries. They must be given the opportunity and environment to thrive.
Various stakeholders in society, politics, business, civil society and others should aim to develop young people by putting them on the path to leadership positions, with nurturing, educating and supporting them every step of the way.
It’s vitally important to remember that Gen Alpha will start educating themselves, inspire and empower others and become very impatient when bureaucratic promises continue to be broken and assurances of uplifting fall by the wayside, time and again.
As a continent, Africa must now take off its blinkers and seriously heed the call of its youth. Only by doing so, can it build a sustainable economic model that the global community will respect and that its people can be proud of.
Kizito Okechukwu is the co-Chair of the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Africa; 22 on Sloane is Africa’s largest startup campus.