SA youth more likely to support looting, AI study finds

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Matt Kloos, chief finance officer of CompariSure.
Matt Kloos, chief finance officer of CompariSure.

Local fintech firm CompariSure has conducted an online survey across the country on the recent unrest.

Using its conversational artificial technology (AI) technology, CompariSure’s research involved “chatting” to over 1 600 respondents in order to gather opinions and results, all within a period of 48-hours.

The survey revealed that a mere 7% of the respondents supported the recent looting and violence that broke out in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

Last week, SA was thrown into turmoil after what started as protests against the imprisonment of former president Jacob Zuma turned violent, with businesses being looted or set on fire.

The pro-Zuma protests that started in KwaZulu-Natal after Zuma handed himself in to authorities spread to Gauteng a few days later at an unprecedented speed, and before most could process what was going on, violent scenes of looting were being enacted in some shopping malls.

Citing estimates from the South African Property Owners Association, the Presidency has revealed the deadly riots in SA could cost the country about R50 billion in lost output, while 150 000 jobs have been placed at risk.

At least 125 lives have been lost during the unrest.

Utilising its in-house chatbot technology, CompariSure has had automated conversations with thousands of South Africans on Facebook Messenger.

The company says respondents are relatively young on average, with 77% being between the ages of 25 and 45.

More significantly, CompariSure says the majority of those (the above 7%) who shared this view are young people aged 20- to 40-years-old.

It notes the data also shows this group category is 4.83 times more likely to support the looting and violence than those over 40-years-old.

According to the fintech firm, although some may find it shocking that there are young people who saw good in the violence, it is worth noting that these individuals also believe SA was due for a socio-economic revolution, as these protests were a manifestation of underlying problems.

The firm points out that most proponents of the violent protests were of the view that somehow, such protests were a “conveyer belt” leading to socio-economic redress.

To this point, 84% of those surveyed felt that underlying issues such as lack of education, high unemployment rates, or the ongoing lockdown were contributing factors to the looting and violence.

The survey also found that unemployed individuals were almost three times more likely to be in support of the violence and looting than those currently with jobs.

A staggering 64% of respondents between 20- to 40-years-old noted they are currently unemployed.

The data collected from the survey also suggests that, while it is widely believed Zuma’s incarceration sparked the looting, just under a quarter of respondents did not know why he was arrested and jailed.

Moreover, according to the survey, 85% of South Africans were concerned about the spreading of the COVID-19 virus as a result of the protests.

The protests came at a time when the COVID-19 vaccine rollout is under way, and with the roadblocks and chaos, it was difficult to distribute vaccines to various parts of the country.

The unrest also affected the critically ill, who couldn’t receive their medication.

“With any protests or violent uprising, one often wonders whether it’s just the small minority breaking the law, or whether the vast majority also believe in the cause at hand,” says Matt Kloos, chief finance officer of CompariSure.

“While it was uplifting to learn that the vast majority of South Africans were in fact against the violence and looting, it was incredibly troubling to see just how desperate the unemployed youth of our country have become.

“We are hoping that our survey results will help galvanise South Africa into action, be it via government, the private sector, or civil society. To protect the future of our country, all South Africans need to play their part in providing solutions and acting on them,” concludes Kloos.

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