Understanding Generation Z and the Creative Economy

News, 03 May 2018

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With Generation Z (GenZ) as the dominant age group engaged in secondary and higher education (41% of South Africa’s population are younger than 21), paired with the growing necessity to engage our thinking about the present and future in relation to technology, has come to require education bodies to truly consider sustainable skills and careers for GenZ to prepare for. At AFDA, we believe that education, careers and economies will require creativity and collaboration more so than any other generation to date. AFDA Co-Founder and Chairman Garth Holmes, recently conducted research with South African GenZ-ers in order to continually improve our understanding about the incoming Generation and their impact on the world.

Survey results on Gen Z

  • 100% are online at least 4 hours a day with 46% being online for more than 5 hours a day
  • 100% feel encouraged by schools to use online learning for themselves and for school projects, but would not like to complete their matric exclusively online
  • 94% would like a blend of online and face to face learning experience – whether for Matric or in Higher Education
  • 90% believe online can enable access to international lectures, prestigious institutions and to an international degree
  • 80% feel they are adept in maths, sciences, computers or technology
  • 65% of GenZ’s parents do not recommend professions for their children

Gen Z traits

This cohort resembles the silent generation. But also the younger better version of the millennials - millennials on steroids. They are the first true digital natives, fully connected 24/7, virtually acclimatized and technologically fluent. However they are also cautious, private, anxious and concerned. They prefer to communicate with visual imaging and short hand text. GenZ are also user-makers, quietly ambitious, pragmatic, independent and individual, much more tolerant of others than previous generations. They are non-binary, wear low key androgynous fashion and blur the lines on gender, race, class or age.

Attitudinal and learning strategies to deal with Gen Z

It is no longer about the sage on the stage but the guide on the side. We need to digitally step up: utilising platforms and communications tools like Instagram, Snapchat, memes, and YouTube, then utilise student response to track and adjust how and what we communicate to them. The popularity of TedTalks and TedX speaks for itself on what effective teaching and lecturing models are: using online platforms to stream or share shorter recorded lectures, preferably by ‘rockstar’ lecturers, and enable online feedback and engagement. Though particularly for face to face lectures, more and more can utilise interview style methods to allow time for conversation, feedback and questions. Lectures and classes should make use of diverse examples with sensitivity toward gender, race, age and class issues, as well as give short practical projects to demonstrate understanding of theory. Institutions and educators need to encourage learners to be connected, immersed and to participate online, with augmented online research and self-learning. With the ease of access to masses of data, learners need to know how to archive information and knowledge, and then how to analyse, deconstruct and synthesize it.

With the rise of technology and as robots become a common reality in the workforce, learners need to be encouraged to expand their array of knowledge, but to also know and understand skills of collaboration, resolving conflict, admit risk, connect to the market and incorporate good social causes. We need to inspire learners to believe that they can change the world, but to also be able to accept and deal with change from small to large scales.

Accept each learner for who they are and treat them as individuals. Help them identify their natural aptitudes and encourage them to follow these, whether through setting quarterly goals with tracking and alteration or longer term goal setting. It is no longer about the right answer but about the right questions. It is not the smartest person in the room that is most likely to survive, but rather the one who is more adaptable to change.

Some of the primary phenomena and events impacting and shaping Gen Z

Other than the exponential change that development of technology brings (e.g. micro-processor and fibre optics), we also recognise that the 2nd Gutenberg moment is here with its impact on the distribution of knowledge and ideas; a transformation in our fundamental tools for creating, expressing, and sharing information, ideas, and knowledge. And like the invention of the printing press, the rise of digital communication tools will likely lead to multiple revolutions in how we govern, learn, and organize our economy.

The internet has enabled universal access to information and speed of distribution, which gives rise to the collective genius and the spreading of new ideas and also the rise of creative destruction and the removal of traditional gatekeepers. The increase in accessibility increases users, increases data which becomes an economy in itself.

The face of the global population is ever changing and diversifying while youth populations as well as the Latin, Chinese, African and Indian populations grow and spread the urban areas. While there is also a rise of literacy and migratory patterns with access to technology, with the global tension, factional wars and the constant threat of a global recession, there also comes the rise of the permanently unemployed which creates a receding middle class and the potential for the rise of global plutocracy and intellectual elites.

In South Africa, GenZ is impacted by the lack of political leadership, transformation and employment, as well as the fees must fall movement. Issues of slow internet and economic uncertainty is a climate South African GenZ-ers are born into and grow up in.

The Creative Economy

“We are in that strange interregnum when the old order has collapsed

and the new order is not yet born”

- Richard Florida (The Creative Class)

Florida is referring to how structures, rules, economies, governing bodies are collapsing or under severe strain in a challenge to change. This creates room for a new order.

“The days of companies with names like general electric, general mills and general motors are over. The money on the table is like krill: a billion little entrepreneurial opportunities that can be discovered and exploited by smart creative people.”

- Cory Doctorow (Makers)

The Creative Economy is an economy where creativity has replaced raw material and harbours. It is an economy based in cities that have tolerance, technology and talent offering experiential and aspirational lifestyles to its residents, or rather members. It is more diverse, more inclusive and harnesses all its members capacities attracting and developing people who are innovators and content creators in the technology and innovation industries. This is the movement we are seeing now in economic and professional path trends. The creative class grows in response to unemployment and is about using innovation, creativity, imagination and entrepreneurship to grow a career.

With this in mind, we are here to prepare GenZ for the challenges and opportunities of the creative economy. AFDA is the microcosm of the creative economy located in cities that have tolerance, technology and capacity for talent.



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