Addis Ababa: New African Union conference center a lasting testimony of strong afro chinese relations

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A 100 000 000 (one hundred million) Renminbi Yuan (USD14,645,576.89) grant agreement on economic and technical cooperation was signed today between the People’s Republic of China the African Union Commission. The grant will be used for implementing the project of the Conference Center of the African Union, which is being constructed in Addis Ababa by the Chinese government. At the same time, a letter of understanding for the clearing of underground obstructions and site leveling of the project by the Chinese side was also signed.

The agreement and the letter of understanding were signed at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa by Mr Chen Deming, Minister of Commerce of China and the AU Commission’s Deputy Chairperson Mr Erastus Mwencha, during a ceremony that included many significant statements on the cooperation between China and Africa as well as with the African Union. The ceremony was also attended by the Chinese Ambassador to the African Union Mr. Gu Xiaojie and the Commission’s Chief of Staff, Ambassador John Shinkaiye as well as many high level delegates from both sides.

One of the major activities of the day was a visit to the new conference center construction site, where delegates witnessed, and were briefed on progress on the office tower and the conference center. The project, which was hailed today by Mr Mwencha as ?a lasting testimony of the relationship between Africa and China? is expected to be handed over to the AU on time, according to Mr Deming. Both delegations hailed the cooperation and support rendered by the Government of Ethiopia to the project. Mr Deming added that the President of China, Mr Hu Ji Ntao is taking a personal interest in the project.

Recounting the relationship between China and Africa, both Mr Deming and Mr Mwencha underscored that it is one based on mutual respect, and interest in areas of common aspirations. Mr. Deming emphasized the need for action that will benefit the people, rather than getting sidetracked by fears that China may be a new colonial power in Africa. He said China has made significant contributions to peace and security, and human and economic development, adding that his country is promoting access of African goods into the Chinese market. He expressed his government’s desire to assist Africa in developing power supplies, adding that it would be more fruitful for China to work with groups of countries or regions rather than individual countries in this endeavour.

China, Mr Deming said, has 8 policy measures, guiding its cooperation with Africa, focusing on climate change and challenges posed by the environment; enhanced cooperation in science and technology; building financial capacity; opening up China’s markets to Africa; expanding cultural exchanges; and deepening cooperation in agriculture, medical care and health, and human resource development.

Mr Mwencha highlighted the four strategic pillars of the Commission i.e. peace and security; development and strategic partnership; shared values and institution and capacity building. Within the framework of this strategic direction, the Commission wishes to increase its collaboration with China in specific areas that are targeted at achieving the AU’s goals, said Mr Mwencha. These areas include peace and security; arms control, particularly of small arms; disarmament; trade and economic cooperation; climate change; surveillance and regulation of financial systems; governance of international financial institutions; recapitalization of the African development Bank, of which China is a member state; and implementation of commitments towards the global financial and economic crisis made during the G20 Summit held in London in April 2009.

The Deputy Chairperson analyzed Africa’s development cooperation with China, agreeing with Mr Deming that the volume of trade between Africa and China had grown significantly to 106 billion in 2008. He also highlighted the need for China, as a global power, to contribute to the successful conclusion of the Doha round of negotiations. He stressed the importance of market access by African countries. Africa is also keen, he said, to promote further commercial and economic relationships with China in the context of the Shanghai Expo and will use May 25, the day of African Unity, to ?project Africa in a big way?.

Finally, Mr Mwencha stressed the importance for the Commission to be the pillar to coordinate the relationships between Africa and China.

Relations between China and Africa have been on an upward swing since the first strategic dialogue held in Addis Ababa in November 2008 and the second dialogue that took place in Beijing in September 2009. This has found expression in enhanced political relations and exchange of visits at high levels; and closer cooperation in various fields of development. The new AU conference center is one example of the close cooperation.

Source: African Union Commission (AUC)

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