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[Dehai-WN] (Reuters): Glitzy new AU headquarters a symbol of China-Africa ties

From: Berhane Habtemariam <Berhane.Habtemariam_at_gmx.de_at_dehai.org>
Date: Sun, 29 Jan 2012 14:35:02 +0100

Glitzy new AU headquarters a symbol of China-Africa ties

Sat Jan 28, 2012 10:19pm GMT

By Yara Bayoumy

ADDIS ABABA Jan 28 (Reuters) - Standing on what was once Ethiopia's oldest
maximum security prison, the new African Union headquarters funded by China
is a symbol of the Asian giant's push to stay ahead in Africa and gain
greater access to the continent's resources.

Critics point to an imbalance in what they see as the new "Scramble for
Africa". But the prospect of growing Chinese economic influence is welcomed
by African leaders, who see Beijing as a partner to help build their
economies at a time when Europe and the United States are mired in economic

And Africans are hoping for more Chinese largesse.

"The future prospects of our partnership are even brighter," Ethiopian Prime
Minister Meles Zenawi said on Saturday at the new headquarters' multi-storey
amphitheatre, where an African heads of states' summit will take place on
Sunday and Monday .

"China - its amazing re-emergence and its commitments for a win-win
partnership with Africa - is one of the reasons for the beginning of the
African renaissance," he said.

The brown marble and glass monolith was fully paid for by China, right down
to the office furniture, and cost $200 million. The office complex and
almost 100 metre (330 foot) tower is Addis Ababa's tallest building by far.

For the past decade, Africa has recorded economic growth of an average of 5
percent but its under-developed infrastructure has in part hindered its
capacity to develop further.

Chinese companies are changing that. They are building roads and investing
in the energy sector, and are active in areas such as telecoms technology.

China's most senior political adviser, Jia Qinglin, said trade between the
two partners had grown to $150 billion, and the unveiling of the
headquarters was a "milestone" in the ties between China and Africa.

As the biggest consumer of iron-ore, China has a relentless hunger for
African minerals and energy.

Beijing now appears keener to flex its diplomatic muscle in the continent.
It has also contributed $4.5 million for the African Union peacekeeping
force battling Islamist militants in Somalia.

Outside the complex, hundreds of Chinese support staff, delegates and
officials snapped pictures of their country's most ostentatious presence yet
in Africa.

Critics point to land grabs and mistreatment of African workers on
Chinese-funded projects. Even when it comes to job opportunities, in some
instances China brings in teams of workers and technical experts.

Yet African officials insist they aren't being manipulated by China, and say
the relationship is not based on aid but on trade and development.

"There are people who still consider Africans like children who can be
easily manipulated. The good thing about this partnership is that it's give
and take," the Democratic Republic of Congo's ambassador to Washington,
Faida Mitifu, told Reuters. (Editing by James Macharia and Alessandra Rizzo)

C Thomson Reuters 2012 All rights reserved


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