New African Union headquarters inaugurated

Heads of state and government from across the continent, including Mozambican President Armando Guebuza, on Saturday witnessed the inauguration of the new headquarters of the African Union, a gleaming conference and office complex that towers over central Addis Ababa.

Mozambican President Armando Guebuza
Mozambican President Armando Guebuza

The building consists of a circular conference hall, alongside which is a 27 storey tower for the organisation’s offices. The tower is 100 metres high, which makes it the tallest building in Addis Ababa.

The building cost 200 million US dollars, and is a donation from the Chinese government. The gift was announced by Chinese President Hu Jintao at the Beijing Summit on China-Africa cooperation in 2006. China describes it as the largest single Chinese aid project to Africa since the construction of the Tan-Zam Railway, built between 1970 and 1975 in order to give landlocked Zambia a route to the Tanzanian port of Dar es Salaam, thus freeing it from dependence on trade routes that went through countries then ruled by white minority regimes (Ian Smith’s Rhodesia, apartheid South Africa, and Mozambique, then still under Portuguese minority rule).

Construction of the new AU headquarters began in February 2009 and was completed on schedule in December 2011. The contractor was the China State Construction Engineering Corporation, and about 1,200 Chinese and Ethiopian workers were involved in the construction work.

The current AU chairperson, Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, praised the “generosity of the Chinese government”, and described the building as marking “a qualitative leap in the relations between China and Africa”.

He noted that China did not hesitate to press ahead with the project, despite the international financial crisis. “It’s at difficult moments that we know who our friends are”, said Obiang. “Through this building, China has shown that it can be considered a true friend”.

Obiang also thanked Ethiopia for its consistent support for the AU, and for its predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity. It was the Ethiopian government that provided the land on which the AU headquarters stands.

The building, Obiang said, is “a reflection of the new Africa, and the future we want for Africa”.

The Chinese authorities were represented at the ceremony by Jia Qinglin, Chairperson of the People’s Political Consultative Conference, and a member of the Politburo Standing Committee of the Chinese Communist Party.

Jia told the heads of state and hundreds of other states 'This towering complex speaks volumes about our friendship to the African people, and testifies to our strong resolve to support African development.'

It was a “symbol of deepening relations between China and Africa”, he added, pointing out that China is the largest trade partner of the continent, and total Chinese investment in Africa now totals 13 billion US dollars.

Post published in: Africa News

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