Mr Jia Qinglin, Chairman of the Chinese People’s Consultative Council, on behalf of President Hu Jintao, on Saturday afternoon inaugurated a new African Union Conference and Office Complex building in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Described as the city’s tallest building, the almost 100 meter 20- storey building, which dominates the skyline of Addis Ababa, was a gift from the Chinese Government, estimated at a cost of $200 million to the AU.
Constructed by the China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC), within Sino-African relations, the project is China’s largest-scale aid project for Africa in decades after the construction of the Tanzania- Zambia Railway.
The centre covers a construction area of some 50,000 square meters, and will house a 2,550-seat big conference hall, a 650-seat medium conference hall, five press conference rooms and two VIP rooms, among other facilities.
Ghana’s President; John Evans Atta Mills, who would be delivering the keynote address at 18’th Ordinary session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government, together with leaders of other countries of the 54-nation continental body, witnessed the inauguration of the edifice.
After the inaugural ceremony, Chinese Vice Minister of Commerce Gao Hucheng handed over the golden key of the conference hall and office complex, to Mr Qinglin, who in turn handed it over to out-going AU Chairman and President Teodoro Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea, and subsequently to Dr Jean Ping, the AU Commission Chairman who is seeking re-election for another four -year term.
Dr Ping in the inaugural address paid tribute to the founding fathers of the Union and praised the efforts of his predecessor former Mr Omar Alpha Konare, who mooted the idea for a new building and Ethiopian Premier Ato Meles Zenawi for the land for the complex.
He said the building underscores the relations between China and Africa, and also represents the solidarity among nations.
Out-going Africa Union Chairman President Mbasogo, paid tribute to the Chinese President, noting that China had been Africa’s largest trading partner in recent years.
He described the project as reflection of the New Africa, and emphasised the need for more intra African trade.
The African Union Conference Centre Project was one of the eight measures announced by President Hu Jintao at the Bejing Summit of the forum on China Africa Co-operation in 2006.
The project was started in February 2009 and completed in December 2011. It involved 1,200 Chinese and Ethiopian workers.
Most of the materials used came from China, which further paid for the furniture to allow what it called “immediate use of the facility”.