With Youth Day recently celebrated, I have been contemplating Nelson Mandela’s words “The working youth is critical to our future. Our economy depends on you.” Afrilennials (African millennials born between 1982 and 2002) will soon become the largest segment of South Africa’s working population.
It is true that the Afrilennial perspectives and priorities will shape what gets consumed, how it gets consumed and how money flows in our economy. More importantly, the Afrilennials are our future software developers. Their commitment to society and developing technical skills will directly impact South Africa’s ability to compete.
We have read much about millennials, however few of us realize that the Afrilennial is very different to the western millennial. This realization first dawned on me when I listened to an impassioned speech by a budding engineer at the NSFT awards last year. Since then Chillisoft has been performing ethnographic studies of African millennials who are software developers. Although our research is qualitative and is ongoing, the preliminary observations are already hugely beneficial to business and employers.
“Afrilennials” share millennial traits but have some very pronounced traits that are attributed to the struggles and challenges of our African context. Chillisoft has found that like millennials, Afrilennials are seeking high salaries, but that does not mean that they are disloyal or that they job hop excessively. Technical Afrilennials are more specific, they are seeking a good salary with a strong career path. A good salary is important because Afrilennials have more family responsibilities than millennials, where they are often burdened with financial obligations of an extended family.
Chillisoft has found that Afrilennials are pragmatic and that job security is paramount to software graduates and juniors. Career-pathing and skills development continues to be critical to juniors and intermediates. If an employer is not assisting them in developing their careers, they will leave since being seen as successful and continually succeeding is very important to them. The greatest risk of attrition to an employer is an apprentice or junior who has some technical knowledge and a year of software development on the CV’s.
Afrilennials are proudly African and are socially active. They care about themselves but they also care about making an impact on homegrown issues. Like millennials they activate for change, but they prefer to make a difference on a more tangible and local scale. Afrilennials understand the importance of education and they see education as the key to success.
As employers, we often make gross assumptions about millennials, such as historically disadvantaged millennials not having access to technology and being digitally unaware. We assume this because millennials interact with technology differently to Generation X’ers and they don’t consume information in the way we do. Afrilennials, irrespective of direct technical access, have grown up in a digitally connected world. Even if they did not have access to a computer, they understand that careers in technology means job security, career success and social status.
Like millennials, Afrilennials are anxious and scared of failure. The Afrilennial however is more predisposed to be brave together, by collaborating, sharing, learning and teaching. The Afrilennial thrives in an environment where there is transparency and trust. The technical Afrilennial loves specific feedback and instant gratification loops such as those provided by TDD (test driven development). The technical Afrilennial also loves the safety of rules, pragmatic practices, structure and embraces practice based learning.
Well trained and motivated technical Afrilennials are your company’s competitive edge. They are grounded in African issues, are curious and have a burning drive to make a contribution. Let Chillisoft help you, help them to make a contribution i.e. if you empower Afrilennials by helping them build a technical career, they will find new markets and new solutions that are pragmatic for Africa. For our graduate programme and our TDD public courses please refer to our courses.
Watch the video below on our recent graduates to help you understand what matters to technical Afrilennials.