Second Youth Sex Survey shows SA youth - between modernity and tradition

Cape Town, 31 May 2012 - South Africa’s youth are not afraid of having sex, as long as they are properly protected - but many still believe that a man “owns” a woman if he pays lobola* and a significant number did not get tested for HIV in the last year or are afraid of knowing their status. And while the majority of the wired generation is clued up enough not to have sex with someone they’ve met online, many young South Africans believe that abortion is wrong, no matter what the circumstances.

These are just some of the fascinating findings of Praekelt Foundation’s second ever YAL Youth Sex Survey, conducted on its close to 1 Million user strong YoungAfricaLive (YAL) mobile platform – reflecting the dichotomy between the country’s switched on and engaged youth and the strong influence that culture, religion and the older generation still have over them. 

“This tension between being young and living fully in the digital age and coming from families and communities where culture and religions are still important is amply reflected in this year’s survey,” comments Praekelt Foundation founder, Gustav Praekelt.  

A sequel to last year’s inaugural YAL Sex Survey released in May 2011, this year’s YAL Sex Survey covers the period May 2011 to May 2012 and includes a broader range of issues – among them sex, HIV, sexual health, sexuality, love, relationships and culture and heritage.   

YoungAfricaLive has also grown significantly in the last year. It now numbers almost one million users who are regularly engaged with the platform.

The 2012 survey results were announced during the mHealth Summit currently taking place in Cape Town, at an event that also saw the award-winning Praekelt Foundation give insight into additional mobile technologies, including VumiGo, MAMA and Ummeli, that are changing lives in Africa. YoungAfricaLive (YAL) itself has also undergone significant growth over the past year: from launching on December 1st 2009 as a youth mobile community to entertain and educate young people on topics of love, sexual health, gender and relationships, YAL was launched in Tanzania late 2011 and in Kenya early this year.

Based around over 50 revealing questions and over 170 000 responses by YAL’s user community (up from the 138 954 responses in 2011), the YAL Youth Sex Survey takes the temperature of young Africans’ views on a range of issues, through the use of polls on YAL. This is not a scientific survey, but the volume and quality of responses from the YAL community gives real insight into the views and behaviour of young Africans – including on the all-important issue of Culture and Heritage. The second YAL Sex Survey, for instance, showed that 41% of respondents believe that the annual Reed Dance is important to preserve culture while 58% said it had no place in the modern world. On the other hand, an overwhelming 80% hold the view that Lobola* is not outdated and should be valued as “part of our heritage and culture”.

The YAL polls used for the YAL Sex Survey are frequently related to topical issues: for example, in April a poll was linked to a news story titled “Teen gang-raped – Perpetrators caught on video” that reported on the viral video showing a mentally disabled teenager being raped in Johannesburg.  A total of 3 033 users voted, with the majority (46%) stating that the crime revealed a “real problem with the way some guys relate to women” while 22% believed the perpetrators were not raised properly and 27% said it showed how young people would do anything to record it on their cell phones and show it to their friends.

As part of YAL’s intention to track the views and behaviours of Africa’s youth over a period of time, a number of questions were repeated from the 2011 survey, with several more added to what will now become a consistent set of poll questions that will run each period (May to May) in South Africa, Tanzania and Kenya (as well as any other African territories that may be added).

Among these is a question about getting tested for HIV: in 2011, 31% of YAL users did NOT want to know their HIV-status. In 2012, that figure was up to 32% - even though actual user numbers for the poll increased.  A new question – Are You Gay? (which will be repeated in the next cycle) - has revealed that 15% of YAL’s users are gay, with many having told their families.

The YAL Sex Survey potently gives voice to the contradictory beliefs that reflect the place in time of Africa’s youth who are visibly stuck between belief systems. 

For instance, the respondents have clear insight into how little sex instruction they are getting from elders or society (sex education “just happened” said 44%) but also have strong religious principles with 53% agreeing with the statement that there is “never a good reason to have an abortion”.  In addition, strong gender stereotypes remain in place – even though men are happy to reap the benefits of so-called gender equality. This cycle’s poll revealed that the majority of poll respondents (44%) believe that it does matter how many people a woman has slept with as this shows “she has no morals”. 89% of those taking this past cycle’s YAL polls believe that carrying a condom is the job of both men and women.

*Lobola is a Southern African tradition where a man pays his bride’s family (historically with cattle but nowadays frequently in cash) for her hand in marriage, thereby creating a lasting bond between the two families.

Get the full results here [PDF]

About YoungAfricaLive

YoungAfricaLive is a mobile platform where a cross-section of young people from all over South Africa can share their feelings and thoughts on relevant issues around the conflicting (and often confusing) worlds of sex, love and relationships.  The users post comments and in doing so generate discussions. YAL has been developed for young guys and girls by the Praekelt Foundation and is supported by the Vodacom Foundation. Access to the mobile platform is free for Vodacom users and works even when users have no airtime. YAL was launched in South Africa but has recently expanded into Tanzania and Kenya. The YAL platform currently has reached just under 1 million users in South Africa. 

About Praekelt Foundation

Established in 2006, Praekelt Foundation is Africa’s leading developer of mobile solutions to improve people’s lives. From its Johannesburg-base, the social-business brings life-saving and life-changing information and services to people in Africa and in other developing markets. Praekelt Foundation believes that mobile phones provide the most potent way of effecting change for good within communities living in poverty.

Follow Praekelt Foundation on twitter @praekeltfound or visit