The Chinese-African Union

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When the new African Union (AU) headquarters was unveiled in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, earlier this year, the $200 million structure -- now the capital city's tallest building -- caused a splash. But it wasn't just the mammoth building's impressive spec sheet that drew comment, it was also the project's bankroller: China.

The Chinese government has been leading a construction boom across Africa,  setting up huge dams and infrastructure projects, soccer stadiums, and even the world's third largest mosque in Algeria. And the lavish new AU headquarters was paid for -- in its entirety -- by the Chinese government.

The towering edifice houses three conference centers, its own helipad, and enough office space to accommodate 700 workers. The 20-story high complex, designed by the Architectural Design and Research Institute of Tongji University, also features an impressive entrance. "Leaping fountains grace a plaza at the front of the building next to a golden statue of late Ghanaian leader Kwame Nkrumah and the first-laid stone of an African Union memorial for Human Rights," World Architecture News gushed

Above, an exterior view of the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa on Jan. 28, 2011. The African Union Headquarters Construction Project (AUCC) was undertaken by China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC) and was unveiled in early 2012.  The following images provide a closer look at the the supersized structure.


A Chinese CSCEC worker on Jan. 30 at the site of the new AU headquarters in Addis Ababa. China, often accused of being concerned only with Africa's oil, is trying to change the perception of its involvement in Africa, with projects such as this one. While some critics maintain that the building boom is a selfish venture -- Chinese workers (and building material) are often brought in for the construction -- plenty of African leaders are embracing the new relationship as a positive one for Africa's growth. "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," Faida Mitifu, the Democratic Republic of Congo's ambassador to Washington, told Reuters.


Above, workers clean the streets in front of the new AU headquarters on Jan. 24, 2012. The building will host this year's AU Summit in the Ethiopian capital, which brings together heads of state from across the continent.


Newly elected AU Chairman President Boni Yayi of Benin speaks on Jan. 31, 2012. The AU plans to focus on conflict zones throughout Africa this year, with Yayi pledging to visit Libya and South Sudan for direct talks. Mariam Diallo, a diplomatic adviser to Yayi, told Reuters that, "A road map has been drawn to allow the presidency of the AU to progressively and effectively tackle the different crises through direct discussions with the various protagonists" after a meeting last month. 


The AU Conference Center in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on on Jan. 28, 2012. Construction of the building required 1,200 Ethiopian and Chinese workers and its inauguration was attended by Jia Qinglin, China's top political adviser. Equatorial Guinea's President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo called the headquarters "a refelction of the new Africa."


And engineer from China Construction Eighth Engineering Division checks the new AU conference center in Addis Ababa on Dec. 11, 2011. The new AU headquarters was paid for entirely by the Chinese government, down to the tiniest details. Many of the raw materials came from China, and every aspect was paid in full by Beijing, "even the furnishings," the AFP reports


A night view of the AU conference center on Jan. 30, 2012.


A night view of the conference center taken on Jan. 30, 2012. 

A plaque in front of the building reads: "The African Union Conference Centre and Office Complex, a donation of the Government of the People's Republic of China, commenced on Feb. 26, 2009 and completed on Dec. 26, 2011. The complex is inaugurated during the 18th summit meeting of the African Union in the presence of both Chinese and African Heads of State and Government. -- Jan. 28 2012"
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