#SexMoneyFun: Kenya’s young people don’t make sense without it [ARCHIVE]

  • Blog
  • 12 May 2016

Teenagers are strange and unusual creatures. We’ve all been there but each generation struggles to understand the next. Yet, understanding young people is crucial, if like us, you want to help them make life better. So we spend a lot of time listening and taking notes and we’ve come up with an oversimplified concept to try and sum it all up: #SexMoneyFun

All over the world, teenagers take an interest in sex, money, fun and the internet. But in Kenya, we have found that the four are so interrelated, that they deserve to be connected not just into a single concept, but into a single word. And not just any word but a digitally interactive hashtag word at that. #SexMoneyFun

A lot of research points you to a singular conclusion, sometimes a singular causation. But we have been triangulating our research and on Wednesday 18 May 2016, we will present what we think may be the most holistic view ever of 15-24 year old Kenya. That’s one in five Kenyans and the future of the nation. We are calling it #Shujaaz360

We’ve got lots and lots of numbers (quantitative data collected via nationally representative surveys), and we’ve got deep, rich and textured stories (qualitative data collected face to face with young people, by young people, through scenario-enriched focus groups: what we call ‘Ground Truth’, through games and even by going under-cover).

But we’ve also got feedback. Lots of it. Millions of SMS exchanges, hundreds of thousand of Facebook interactions, tens of thousands of WhatsApp messages. A huge digital conversation that we have triangulated with our ‘quant’ numbers and our ‘qual’ stories. So what’s it telling us?

Well, it’s complicated. But we’re trying to rise to the challenge of simplifying it. #SexMoneyFun is our top line attempt at doing that.

One curious thing about #SexMoneyFun in Kenya is when and where it happens. While the average American teenager spends nine hours a day online, in Kenya, the average is just one hour but the range is from just one minute to no more than four hours. And while American teenagers can often go online up to 100 times a day, Kenyans go online just once or twice a day. Not surprising then, that many of them do it at the same time.

In Kenya, #SexMoneyFun happens after sunset. Between 6pm and 10pm, you will find almost half of Kenya’s 15-24 year olds online, twice as many as at any other time of day. Why? Mainly money, but also sex and of course, fun. From 6am to 6pm, young people in Kenya have responsibilities that keep them offline: school, jobs, hustling, commuting and so on. With nine out of ten accessing the internet via a mobile phone, that access peaks between 6pm and 10pm because many are borrowing a parent’s (or older sibling’s) phone (only two thirds have their own) and are using free wi-fi at a coffee shop, a cybercafé or at a friend’s house.

Granted, only half of Kenyan young people regularly go online, but of course that number is rising and rising. Everyone knows that Kenya is the home of mobile money. Like ‘Google’, M-PESA is not just a noun but a verb. But you might not know that young people in Kenya spend a fifth of their average monthly income on airtime. Why? #SexMoneyFun of course! How are you going to hook up with a “totally single” or date an “S3” (Single Still Searching)? How do you run a business in a cash-lite society? Or do you just what to know where it’s at? Mobiles are young peoples’ gateway to aspiration.

In Kenya, use of digital technology requires a greater level of social and economic maturity. Unlike the US, where the younger the teen the more likely they are to be online and have multiple social media accounts, in Kenya, 20-24 year olds are more likely than 15-19 year olds because they are also more likely to be income independent and sexually active. While American teens go online for fun and then graduate to sexting and eventually grow up to become ecommerce entrepreneurs, for young Kenyans, #SexMoneyFun is the interrelated and totally inseparable transition from childhood to adulthood.

Kenya is different. And we think our #Shujaaz360 approach can show the world just how different. And it all starts with appreciating #SexMoneyFun – what’s not to like?