AU Conference Center and Office Complex

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African Union Conference Center and Office Complex
African Union Conference Centre building.jpg
General information
Location Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Coordinates 9°00′01″N 38°44′41″E / 9.0002°N 38.7446°E / 9.0002; 38.7446
Current tenants Seat of the African Union
Construction started 2009
Completed 2012
Inaugurated 28 January 2012
Cost $200 million
Height 99.9 m (328 ft)
Technical details
Floor area 112,000 m2 (1,210,000 sq ft)
Design and construction
Architect China Architecture and Design Research Group
Other designers Tongji University
Main contractor China State Construction Engineering

The AU Conference Center and Office Complex (AUCC) is a building in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It is the headquarters of the African Union and plays host to the biannual AU summits. It also serves as a conference center for African and diaspora businesses.[1] The main building is 99.9 metres (328 feet) tall[2] and it is the tallest building in Addis Ababa. Its cost was US$200 million funded by the Chinese government.[3]

Construction[edit]

The main hall of the AUCC. The wooden veneer on the walls was imported from China.[4]

The main building was designed and built by a collaboration of Tongji University, China State Construction Engineering and the China Architecture and Design Research Group, with the US$200 million budget donated by the Chinese government.[3] The design of the site resembles two hands in embrace, symbolising Africa–China relations,[2] and includes both traditional African art and modern pan-African symbology, with the height of the 99.9 meter main tower a reference to the adoption of the Sirte Declaration founding the African Union on 9 September 1999.[4] However, the majority of materials used in the construction were Chinese, and the art on the walls was produced in China.[4] Construction took three years with a workforce of 1,200, roughly half of whom were Ethiopian and half of whom were Chinese.[4] The building was inaugurated on 28 January 2012.[3]

The headquarters of the AU Peace and Security Council, part of the AUCC compound, were built separately as a €30 million gift from the German government, under the auspices of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit, and opened in October 2016.[5] Unlike the main AUCC building, the Peace and Security Building was constructed by Ethiopian contractors using local materials.[4]

The AUCC is built on the site of the former Alem Bekagn prison, used during the Italian occupation of Ethiopia, and subsequently by Haile Selassie and Mengistu Haile Mariam to house political prisoners. The decision to construct the AU headquarters on this former prison grounds was criticized by survivors, as they were disappointed by the AU's lack of acknowledgement of the torture used on the site.[4]

Facilities[edit]

The office tower of the AUCC

The headquarters comprise a 20-storey office building, housing the administrative departments of the African Union Commission; a 2,505-person-capacity plenary chamber; and a sub-conference building with 32 conference rooms.[2] Both the AUCC and the Peace and Security Building are designed to be environmentally-friendly, using passive cooling to control the buildings' climates in the heat of Addis Ababa without high energy consumption.[2][5] The complex also contains the African Union Grand Hotel, funded by the Ethiopian-Saudi billionaire Mohammed Hussein Al Amoudi and managed by Westin, which is primarily for hosting presidents and diplomats during AU summits.[6]

Espionage allegations[edit]

In January 2018, six years after the opening of the AUCC, a report in the African edition of Le Monde, confirmed by the Financial Times, claimed that the AU's IT department had discovered in early 2017 that the site's computer systems were connecting nightly to servers in Shanghai and uploading AU files as well as recordings from microphones embedded in the walls and furniture.[7][8] The building's computer system was subsequently removed and the AU refused a Chinese offer to configure the replacement system. Le Monde alleged that the AU had then covered up the hack to protect Chinese interests in the continent.[7][8] The Chinese government denied the claim, while incoming Chairperson of the African Union Paul Kagame played down the leak saying "I don’t think spying is the speciality of the Chinese. We have spies all over the place in this world."[9]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "AUCCC". African Union. 31 January 2018. 
  2. ^ a b c d Li Lianxing (26 November 2011). "New AU headquarters passes initial inspection". China Daily. Retrieved 19 July 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c "African Union opens Chinese-funded HQ in Ethiopia". BBC News Online. BBC. 28 January 2012. Retrieved 19 July 2012. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f Grove, Sophie (April 2012). "Special Relations". Monocle. Retrieved 31 January 2018. 
  5. ^ a b Off, Manfred (March 2017). "A building for peace and security". Retrieved 31 January 2018. 
  6. ^ "7 Star Hotel managed by Westin Hotels and Resorts being constructed in the African Union (AU) compound, Addis Ababa". AddisBiz. 15 March 2015. Retrieved 31 January 2018. 
  7. ^ a b Tilouine, Joan; Kadiri, Ghalia (26 January 2018). "A Addis-Abeba, le siège de l'Union africaine espionné par Pékin". Le Monde Afrique (in French). Retrieved 31 January 2018. 
  8. ^ a b Aglionby, John; Feng, Emily; Yang, Yuan (29 January 2018). "African Union accuses China of hacking headquarters". Financial Times. Retrieved 31 January 2018. 
  9. ^ "China rejects claim it bugged headquarters it built for African Union". The Guardian. 30 January 2018. Retrieved 31 January 2018.