China offered the African Union new headquarter complex on Saturday. The 113-meters-tall impressive building dominates Addis Ababa and reflects the increasingly deep economic and political footprint left by the Asian giant on the continent.
“This gigantic complex says a lot about our friendship with the African people and bears witness to our absolute commitment to help Africa in its development,” said Jia Qinglin, member of the Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China before symbolically handed the key to the officials of the African Union.
China has built the new complex in less than two and a half years, and paid all the costs for a total of $ 200 million, furniture included. The African Union now has several conference rooms with a capacity of 2,500 people, a 1,000-seat outdoor amphitheater, a shopping center, a heliport and offices for 700 employees.
On the platform of the light wood glass-roofed new chamber, African leaders thanked China and expressed gratitude to Mr.Jia Qinglin, guest of honor at the ceremony and the 18th AU Summit convened Sunday and Monday.
Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, President of the AU, has proposed that the Summit adopts “a vote of thanks and gratitude to the People’s Republic of China for this wonderful building.”
“China, with its extraordinary resurgence and its commitment to a win-win partnership, is one of the reasons behind the African renaissance,” said Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, whose country hosted the institutions of the Organization of African Unity,which became the African Union in 2002.
Meles Zenawi said that the economic emergence of Asia, especially China, “was an opportunity for Africa to build and rebuild partnerships”, criticizing the Western world to have precipitated weakening the continent’s economic and have tried to “recolonize”.
If “bad governance” was the cause of many evils in Africa, “the fact that we were given drugs that were found to be worse than the disease did not help,” he said in reference with Western.
China: trading partner of Africa
Mr.Jia said that China had become “the largest trading partner of Africa with $ 150 billion, or 10% of China’s foreign trade,” and that more than two thousand Chinese companies have now invested $ 13 billion on the continent whose population exceeded one billion people.
African leaders, including President of South Africa Jacob Zuma, President of Côte d’Ivoire Alassane Ouattara, President of Nigeria Goodluck Jonathan, President of Sudan Omar al-Beshir, President of South Sudan Salva Kiir Mayardit, attended the opening ceremony.
With a height of 113 meters, the headquarter of the AU is “probably the highest of Addis Ababa,” noted the President of the AU Commission Jean Ping.
The stone entrance to the site is decorated by traditional Chinese stone with the characters “with the help from the Government of the People’s Republic of China”. In the choice of channels for simultaneous translation during the ceremony, Chinese has been granted the first channel, and English the second.
A bronze statue of Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s former president and champion of African Unity, was inaugurated, presenting a memorial to the human rights of the African Union.
Before their 18th summit, the African heads of state will be invited to plant a tree in front of the new headquarter, paying posthumous tribute to Wangari Maathai, the Kenyan environmental activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate who died last year.