African Union (AU) inaugurates $200m Headquarters, donated by China.

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The African Union inaugurated on Saturday its new high-rise headquarters in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa – built and donated by China at a cost of $200m.

“The towering complex speaks volumes about our friendship to the African people, and testifies to our strong resolve to support African development,” said Jia Qinglin, chairperson of China’s political advisory body, the People’s Political Consultative Conference.

The sleek edifice – Addis Ababa’s tallest – will host the African Union summit which gathers African heads of state.

“This complex is a reflection of the new Africa,” said African Union chair, Equatorial Guinea’s President Teodoro Obiang Nguema at the opening ceremony. “This is a highly significant event in the life of our organisation.”

The building, which towers above the Ethiopian capital, was opened ahead of the start on Sunday of the pan-African body’s 18th ordinary summit, a bold symbol of China’s rapidly changing role in Africa.

Construction was wholly funded by the Chinese government, with even the furnishings paid for by the Asian powerhouse, and most of the construction material was imported from China.

Fluttering red flags emblazoned with the slogan “Peace, Development, Co-operation” were set up around the centre, a reference to Beijing’s efforts to develop a strategic China-Africa partnership.

“China, its amazing re-emergence and its commitment to win partnership is one of the reasons for the beginning of the African renaissance,” said Ethiopian President Meles Zenawi.

Construction of the new headquarters kicked off in January 2009, and a team of up to 1 200 Chinese and Ethiopian workers laboured around the clock in two or three shifts to finish it on schedule.

The site boasts three conference centres, a helipad and office space for 700 people.

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