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Celebrate the creative generation

By Alex Gakuru - ASK THE YOUTH, they know everything, says a Chinese proverb. To confirm this, look at a new laptop's connection slots. Do they all make sense? Maybe not some of them but ask a 20-year old and surprise yourself. You might left wondering why the manufacturer ever bothered printing the long manuals when they could have simply instructed, “for help, ask the young.”

It is no longer cool to be a graphic designer when being a game designer is the in-thing. Watching, reading, and listening are boring but “simulating and engaging” is the in-thing. Gone is 'old' top-down, command-and-control style now replaced by “peer-to-peer” and “guide and nurture” respectively. Forget cautious and safe and embrace wacky and rebellious digital youths.

Instead of corporate plan-and-execute, it is now release early and often, for the product to remain in perpetual “beta.” Efficiency and cost control are no longer as important as effectiveness and growth, appointment-driven lifestyle is now “on-demand” delivery. People no longer go to training but rather training goes to the people. Before, interruptive distractions occurred now but one identifies teachable moments.

The New Communication Manifesto for the Digital Generation by Andres Gronstedt says replicating communications with new media as now substituted by “reinventing communication with new media.

“Compliance” changed to “commitment” Before this, father-who-knew-best now finds “harnessing collective intelligence” is what counts and instead of the youth asking for permission they go ahead only and ask for forgiveness later, if caught.

Who are they?

They are severely wealth challenged, tireless change believers shaping the destiny of our knowledge society. They are below 25 years of age, yearning for new digital success paths and knowledge mostly their only asset. Distanced from ethnic chauvinism and carrying a positive attitude, and proudly Kenyan.

They create, they are intellectually curious, they are driven, very exposed - thanks to technologically delivered media, they are good thinkers, they like to be independent. Technology provides them with the tools. What they now need is capital.

“The Tandaa generation is highly exposed to what is possible technologically. They may be short of corporate experience. We the corporate generation have a responsibility to give them whatever support we can in terms of exposure, encouragement, and financial support. What we need is to have a bridge developed between Tandaa and the “Zaks”. I need ideas to figure this out. How do you get a chap who can afford to loose 20,000 USD to give it to a Tandaa who can change the world with it?” wonders Paul Kukubo, Kenya ICT Board Chief at his blog.

They include software developers, online “web-presence”content developers-visual, audio and written, bloggers, and animators. They team-up, collaborate and invent. Through new digital instruments they are exploiting opportunities and in the process creating new professions and careers.

With many successes stories now being witnessed, their future looks bright.

Take the Animated Kenya Seminar held at the Sarit Center on December 6, 2008, the biggest animation arts event in Kenya to date which attracted about 500 people. A spot check revealed attendees being 20-25 years old.

Showcased local productions included collaborative XYZ Show - an African political satire comedy puppet animation. Wesley Kiriinya's, a top ICT youth innovator in Africa, showed his Adventures of Nyangi game. His company, Grimgrafx Studios, brings fresh ideas into the video game industry by adopting African mythology and folklore into the video. Others included Jim Chuchu's work with Carol Atemi and Nairobi Institute of Technology (NIT) which now runs an animation course in collaboration with Truemax Academy of Denmark.

The government was called upon to make access to announced youth entrepreneurship funds available to pioneers in these new creative industries. Entrepreneurs asserted their need for business capacity building. It was announced that an “entreprenuership workshop” would be held early 2009 as a follow-up to the many questions raised on funding and marketing their projects.

The Hollywood Reporter of 18 June, 2008 said “...By 2011, the worldwide gaming market will be worth $48.9 billion, India’s animation, gaming and visual FX industry grew by almost 27% in 2007 to $325 million. The business is projected to reach $1 billion by 2012, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 25 per cent.”

The Tandaa generation wave of creative genius is sweeping across the country. We are recreating ourselves and beginning to observe or surroundings, be they human or environmental.

Intellectual Property Protection:

Registering patents for local software-related innovation is impossible. Computer Programs are exempted from patents protection in Kenya, according to the Kenya Industrial Property Institute website raising legal questions on “anti-software piracy” crusades. Fortunately, collaborative community software tools, for example, from www.blender.org are freely downloadable.

Attitude shift

Change begins with a mindset moving from “I have nothing” to “What can I do with what I have?” Avoiding vicious competitiveness that leaves each other bruised to exploring collaborating to achieve together is the norm. Granted, the inaccessible Youth Funds is an entrepreneurial impediment, but like- mindedness, collaboration and synergy characterise these youth.

Avoiding Tribalism:

They spend half their time on online networks which rarely affords them time to ascertain where their grandparents came from. But when they do, they quickly move on because they will already have made contact with their peers' thinking, gifts, opportunities presented, and partnership possibilities.

“If you think about it later, its really less than a footnote. You're connected. There was a time people used to hide or conceal themselves in pseudonyms like sk5. Now we don't even bother, in fact we're proud of our identities,” says Neema Mawiyoo a singer.

The Tandaa Generation wave of creative genius is sweeping across the country. We are recreating ourselves and beginning to see our surroundings, be they human or environmental. We are seeing the intrinsic value in one another, everywhere. There is much to build and the foundation exists.

Welcome the socially networked, game-savvy youths pouring into the workforce. A generation of workers wants to be engaged, to be in control, and part of a compelling successful storyline. They expect greatness and will abandon you en masse if you cannot inspire them. Legacy dogmas have been replaced by new realities.
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As published on Management Journal, February 2009

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