African politics bestowed with Chinese feng shui

ADDIS ABABA: China, often accused of being concerned only with Africa’s oil, is building, free of charge, the edifice that will house the continent’s political headquarters for decades to come.

While China’s ties with Africa are often characterised as a mad rush to secure resources to fuel its energy-hungry economy, the Asian giant is working on erecting the symbol that was missing for its relations with the continent. As Africa’s leaders gather here for their annual meeting at the African Union’s headquarters, they can see the site where hundreds of Chinese workers are building the titanic structure that should host their summits in two years.

“Symbolically, it is a very strong message: China and Africa have a long and strong friendship and this centre is the symbol of this solidarity,” said Fantahun Michael, the official coordinating the project with the African Union. All around him, hundreds of helmeted Chinese and Ethiopian workers and yellow earth-moving equipment inscribed with ideograms work on the foundations of what will become the new headquarters of the 53-member AU.

“The project started in January 2009 with the inauguration ceremony. Normally it should be completed in December 2011,” said the Ethiopian official.