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“TikTok to the Polls”: How Influencers Are Mobilizing South Africa’s Youth Vote

  • May 27, 2024
  • 3 min read
“TikTok to the Polls”: How Influencers Are Mobilizing South Africa’s Youth Vote

South Africa’s social media influencers are stepping into a new role ahead of this week’s general election – political mobilizers. With 42% of registered voters under the age of 40, the younger demographic could play a significant role in Wednesday’s election.

Among these influencers is Karabo “Kay” Mahapa, a TikTok creator with over 350,000 followers. Nestled between his usual content about power cuts and relationships, Mahapa has started urging his audience to get out and vote. His messages target young voters, a group that recent surveys identify as being pessimistic about the country’s future.

Mahapa’s election-themed videos often feature the recurring question, “Who are we voting for?” This reflects a generation’s uncertainty about their political choices. “I simply want to highlight the importance of voting,” Mahapa told the BBC. While he doesn’t explicitly endorse a party, he makes it clear which party he won’t support. In one video with over 1.7 million views, he asks if people will agree not to back the governing African National Congress (ANC).

The ANC has faced numerous allegations of corruption and economic mismanagement after nearly three decades in power. This has led to a growing disenchantment among young voters. Under Mahapa’s video, one commenter wrote, “As much as we don’t know who to vote for, the ANC must go. We are tired of this toxic relationship with them.” However, there’s also a lack of enthusiasm for the main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, in the comments section.

Ronel Gerber, co-managing director at FGX, a Johannesburg-based marketing agency, noted that the influencing business in South Africa has evolved beyond promoting perfumes, restaurants, and clothing brands. It now includes debating and promoting ideas and political philosophies. Marketing spending on influencers has grown by 78% in the last three years, according to Gerber. “Influencers are the new word of mouth,” she said.

Beauty influencer Kay Yarms, with over half a million Instagram followers, also encouraged voter registration. In February, she posted a link to a new YouTube video, which instead redirected her followers to the voter registration website. One user commented that if it weren’t for the beauty guru, she wouldn’t have registered to vote.

Other influencers use comedy to engage their audience. Bouwer Bosch, a 40-year-old comedian, posted a video about election promises that has amassed over two million views “I want to show people where we are at the moment and leave them to make their own informed decision,” he said.

Political parties have noticed the power of influencers and their impact on the youth. As the election approaches, these influencers continue to play a crucial role in mobilizing young voters, making them an essential part of the political landscape in South Africa.

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