Africa: Made in China
The Chinese money and manpower behind the continent's building boom.
THE “MEGA MOSQUE”
Cost: $1.3 billion
In February, the government of Algeria signed a contract with the China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC) to build what will be the third-largest mosque in the world and the largest outside Saudi Arabia. The facility — which will be stretched across a 49 acre compound, boast a 900-foot-tall minaret, and have room for 120,000 worshippers — is a means for Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to “leave his mark,” according to the country’s religious affairs minister. The state-controlled CSCEC, though one of the leading firms in Africa’s construction boom, was banned in 2009 from bidding for World Bank financed projects because of a corruption scandal in the Philippines.
Cost: $700 million
The dam has been under construction by China’s Sinohydro since 2009 and is due to be completed next year. As many as 2,600 people are being relocated for the 300 foot dam, which will flood a significant portion of the Bui National Park, home to two populations of black hippos as well as rare species of monkeys, lions, and leopards. The project will join Sudan’s Merowe dam, whose 174 square kilometer reservoir forced the relocation of 50,000 people, and Ethiopia’s Tekeze Dam, which at over 600 feet is the continent’s tallest, among China’s most ambitious hydroelectric projects in Africa. Of course, China is already well acquainted with both the rewards and downsides of massive dams.
SIPOPO CONGRESS CENTER
Country: Equatorial Guinea
Cost: $800 million for the entire complex
The congress center, built by CSCEC, was originally commissioned for the purpose of hosting the 2011 African Union Heads of State Summit. The glass-encased avant-garde structure was designed by a Turkish architecture firm and built to filter in external light without overheating, while still providing stunning views of the Malabo oceanfront. The convention center — which has been shortlisted for international architecture prizes — is part of a new “city” of mansions and construction centers built near Malabo by the notoriously kleptocratic Obiang regime. It’s just one of a number of Chinese-built projects that recently went up in the capital of this oil-rich but impoverished West African country, including a 15,000-seat stadium built for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations.
Cost: $3.5 billion
Despite the fact that half of Angola’s population lives on less than $2 a day, a thriving oil sector and a housing shortage has made the capital city of Luanda one of the most expensive places to live in the world. So it’s not surprising that the budding petrostate’s government is thinking big in terms of new housing projects. Some 20 miles south of Luanda, Chinese contractors are at work on a new city known, for now, as Kilamba Kiaxi, the first phase of which is due for completion at the end of this year, which will provide housing for 120,000 people in 710 apartment buildings, as well as schools, shops, and parks. Incredibly, Kilamba Kiaxi is just the largest of seven new cities the government plans to build throughout the country. Many Angolans are skeptical of Chinese construction, however, after a hospital built by the China Overseas Engineering Group Company had to be evacuated in 2010 because deep cracks had opened in the walls.
Cost: $300 million
Nearly half completed, the 31 mile long road being built by three Chinese firms connecting the capital city of Nairobi to the central Kenyan hub of Thika will be the largest road in East Africa — at some places, 16 lanes wide. Apartment buildings are already springing up along the road, which it is hoped will help cut back on the notorious Nairobi traffic and help link the Kenyan economy with Ethiopia to the north. Unlike other countries, where China has launched major road-building projects — the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Nigeria, for instance — Kenya is not resource-rich. But projects like this one may help Chinese business set up an early foothold in one of the continent’s main economic centers. Chinese exports to Kenya are already over $800 million per year.