Should Foreign Powers Acquire Land In Africa To Stem Migration Or Is That Just ‘Hipster’ Colonialism?

Should Foreign Powers Acquire Land In Africa To Stem Migration Or Is That Just ‘Hipster’ Colonialism?

hipster colonialism

Is Africa in danger of being colonized again? In a piece published in Al Jazeera, writer Nanjala Nyabola says yes, and that a new form of colonialism is taking place — hipster colonialism.

Just recently Germany’s Africa Commissioner Gunter Nooke suggested that European countries should be permitted to lease land and to build and actually run cities in Africa. This would he theorized stem what he called the current “unchecked expansion” of migration from Africa to Europe. In other words, if Europe is running cities in Africa, making them more “European,” then Africans would have no reason to immigrate to Europe. They would, as a result, stay home.

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Right now, at least a million Sub-Saharan Africans have relocated to Europe since 2010. “EU countries, Norway and Switzerland received nearly 1 million first-time asylum applications from Sub-Saharan Africans between 2010 and 2017, according to data from Eurostat, Europe’s statistical agency. (This number removes application counts withdrawn by sub-Saharan Africans between 2010 and 2017 to account for the possible duplication of asylum seekers applying in multiple countries). But asylum applications are not the only way sub-Saharan migrants enter Europe. Some enter, for example, on family or work visas, or as resettled refugees or international students, so the total inflow is likely larger,” Pew Global Research reported.

Of course, Nooke’s proposal was met with mixed reactions. Some argue that building on existing economic arrangements like Special Economic Zones (SEZs) and Economic Processing Zones (EPZs), is merely the next step.

hipster colonialism
Migrants, most of them from Eritrea, jump into the water from a crowded wooden boat as they are helped by members of an NGO during a rescue operation at the Mediterranean sea, about 13 miles north of Sabratha, Libya, Monday, Aug. 29, 2016. Thousands of migrants and refugees were rescued Monday morning from more than 20 boats by members of Proactiva Open Arms NGO before transferring them to the Italian cost guards and others NGO vessels operating at the zone.(AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)


To many, the idea smacks of a new form of colonialism. And Africa is still reeling for colonialism from decades ago. “More broadly, many African countries are still struggling to recover from the damage from European colonization. In many African countries, land tenure is still irregular and skewed to wealthy and often white minorities, engendering generational economic exclusion. Many African economies have failed to move beyond the extractive, labor intensive economies they inherited from their European counterparts. The violence of colonization is still very present in Africa — should we really be talking about a new, trendy colonialism that only really hopes to address Europe’s paranoia about a possible invasion by Back bodies?”  pondered Nyabola. a political analyst and author of the forthcoming book “Digital Democracy, Analogue Politics.”

So why is Nooke’s idea hipster colonialism?  “Nooke’s proposal is fundamentally hipster colonialism — attempting to reclaim colonialism by couching it in neoliberal trends or ideology while advocating for a return to an essentially exploitative system of social and economic organization. Many of those speaking in favor of this proposal do so it in sterile and agnostic terms, focusing on the economic dimensions and the potential financial growth and leaving out the most important element — the people involved and affected. Underneath this is a reductive premise that human beings, and Africans specifically, are not as fully actualized human beings who deserve holistic life experiences — Africans are just labor or economic opportunities,” Nyabola wrote.

Of course, Africans are not just labor and they have spent decades to try and revitalize their countries after colonialism.