Youth Issue: African Young People and the Battle of Colonialism


Gentrification: Before and after

Joya Tiana is originally from the USA and currently resides in Sydney. She loves Wellington and visits often. Joya has been writing professionally since October 2015 and enjoys writing about food, travel, and socially impactful topics.


“Colonialism deprives you of your self-esteem and to get it back you have to fight to redress the balance”. Although colonialism is seen as an act of the past, its harsh impact still carries on today. Many of today’s youth are still facing issues that have been brought on as an aftermath of colonialism and neocolonialism.


Colonialism is the state of a people or dependent nation in which the area and/or people, and often their resources are being controlled by a more powerful government. Africa has been one of the continents that has suffered the most devastating effects brought on by the colonization of their people, land, and resources by western powers. A form of colonialism still takes place today in Africa, through the practices of capitalism, cultural imperialism, and business globalization – in other words, through neocolonialism. African countries such as Zambia are having their resources taken and invested into the economies of countries such as Switzerland, New Zealand, and the United States of America.


Zambia is a landlocked country located in the central southern region of Africa, with Angola to the west and Zimbabwe to the south of its border. In Zambia, copper is plentiful. Copper is also a commodity to the world and is a significant factor in the global economy. However, foreign occupancy among Zambia’s copper mines is rampant. Every single copper mine in Zambia is owned by a western country, meaning that not a cent earned from the production of copper is given to Zambia, the rightful owners of this immaculate resource.


Over the past 10 years, 29 billion US dollars’ worth of copper has been extradited from the lands of Zambia, with every cent going into the economies of westernized countries. Occasionally westernized countries give back to Africa in the form of “foreign aid”, however foreign aid is typically less than 1/10th of what these countries have taken from Africa in the form of resources. This is one of the many forms of neocolonialism that takes place in the world today, particularly with African nations being exploited by the west.


Further commodities that Africa has been exploited for in the past and still is today includes precious gems, cocoa beans, and various precious metals. For many Africans of all ages, including the youth, this means poverty stricken lands and minimal opportunities to escape an insufficient lifestyle.


A popular method that many young Africans, including Zambians are taking is to leave all that they know and love behind for the chance to start a new life on foreign shores in which promise boosted economies, prosperity, and opportunity. The same foreign shores that have been responsible for much of their very own misfortune back home in Africa. Many young Africans are migrating to westernized countries in search of a high quality life that is given to so many non-Africans at the stake of African resources.


New Zealand is one of the nations that is slowly building communities filled with Africans who have left their homelands in search of better futures for themselves and their children. Not only has adjusting to new customs, traditions, and ways of life been a challenge for African migrants, but so has social acceptance from the ethnic majority of New Zealand. Many Africans have come to countries such as New Zealand, only to find that in western countries the lifestyle that their homeland’s resources have funded are not so easily accessible to African migrants or their children.  New Zealand claims to be a nation of equal opportunity, however an entire generation of New Zealand-born youth of African migrants can attest to a different experience.  


“People are surprised that we that we can speak English correctly. People always ask where we are from even though we were born here”. This the response that of one of the three interviewees gave me when I asked him to describe his experience growing up in Wellington. He went on to state that a lot of white New Zealand born individuals treat blacks as though black is inferior to white. Despite the fact that he was born and raised in New Zealand, his existence in the country sounded like the experience of an outsider. Another young, first-generation African male that I had the opportunity to interview talked about different issues that he found to be not so uncommon around New Zealand.


“The media shows so much animosity towards the African population in New Zealand”. The second young gentleman that I had the opportunity to interview felt that in the media, Africans are not accurately portrayed.  He feels that Africans are commonly shown as unintelligent, uneducated, and almost always violent and aggressive. Negative and inaccurate stereotypical portrayal of Africans in the media, along with bigotry and hate from other people can create misunderstanding and mistreatment of Africans on New Zealand soil.


I asked my final interviewee, a third generation African, what colonialism and neocolonialism meant to him. To him, colonialism and neocolonialism meant gentrification. I asked him how gentrification was affecting him. He gave me personal examples from his very own community: the inner-city Wellington neighborhood of Newtown. Just 10 years ago, the community of Newtown was largely filled with ethnic minorities: Polynesians, Māori, and Africans. There was actually a very significant amount of people of color in the area. Back then, Newtown was a great place for low-income dwellers to find an affordable place to live. It was extremely rare to find a white person in Newtown back then. Many whites considered Newtown a rough and dodgy place and did not step foot into the area.  It was extremely rare to see a white person walking around the neighborhood. They preferred to live on the outskirts of town where they could have spacious backyards and big houses.


Presently, times are quickly changing. These days, convenience is an extremely desirable commodity that many people want the luxury of having. Like any commodity, convenience can be bought and sold. This is when gentrification begins. Gentrification is the renovation and increase of property value in low-income areas to appease middle-class and upper-class income earners. Gentrification often leads to displacement of low-income and often ethnic minority residents. This is exactly what is happening to many inner-city ethnic communities globally and Newtown is no exception.


Before, the white middle and high income earners wanted to live far out and have lots of space to raise a family. But now, the next generation of white middle and high income earners want the convenience of inner-city living that comes with short commute times to and from work and numerous bars, restaurants, and entertainment quarters at their feet. The property demand has flipped. Now the demands for inner-city areas are higher, while rural and suburban living is less desired. To meet this demand and make money, the city has been slowly renovating Newtown and raising the rent and property value in the area, which displaces low income earners and people of color, forcing them to leave their neighborhoods for white, middle and upper class occupants.


“The whole objective is to move people far out”, my interviewee adds. “It’s [gentrification] aggravating because there are friends and neighbors who have been here for decades and are a part of the community but are forced to move because of capitalistic gains. People of color are the ones suffering”.


The three young men that were interviewed all gave three very different examples of how colonialism and neocolonialism still impacts their lives today, but they all agreed on one thing. They all wished that there was more vocal presence of African youth in New Zealand. There is a great desire for more positive representations of the African population in New Zealand.


We, as African youth, have to come together for positive changes to happen. Young people are the future of the world and it is up to us to stand up to neocolonialism both abroad and on our own soil. In order for us to accomplish this, we need to come together as a community and begin with small steps.


A young man who is currently residing in Wellington has made a bold move to bring young African people in New Zealand together though the love of music. Ravi Ramoo is the founder of an exciting Facebook channel, ReelVibesCheck. ReelVibesCheck is based on diversity and has great and progressive things planned for its future.  Ravi, created this channel as a platform for the African youth to enjoy great music and to voice the issues that are plaguing their communities. However, the channel also welcomes young people from any background looking for a comfortable place to learn,  meet new people, and enjoy music. With Africans coming together and other ethnicities getting to know and learn about one another, more harmony can occur.


Young people coming together is always a great thing. Although the African population have a separate history, there is a growing population being born and raised right in New Zealand. Each and every one of us play a large role in the making of a community. It is up to us, as young people to spread great influence and make positive changes one step at a time.



3 young African residents of Wellington, who wish to remain anonymous

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