A contest for the job of Africa's top diplomat is expected to be the highlight of a continental summit opening Sunday in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
On the eve of the summit, the African Union inaugurated its new headquarters in the Ethiopian capital, built and donated by China at a cost of $200 million. China's senior political adviser, Jia Qinglin, officially opened the facility Saturday during an event attended by Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, other African leaders, and foreign diplomats.
Jia said the complex, built on the site of a former maximum security prison, is a testament to China's friendship with the African people. He also praised China's growing trade with African countries, which he said reached $150 billion last year, representing a 13-fold increase in the past decade.
He said China is Africa's largest trading partner and Chinese investment there totals $13 billion.
Prime Minister Meles praised what he called the African Renaissance, which he said was modeled on China's state-led economic model. He also took the opportunity to criticize the western economic model of the late 20th century as “medicine that turned out to be worse than the disease.”
He pointed out that The Economist Magazine had in the past called Africa “The Hopeless Continent,” but has recently referred to it as “Africa Rising.”
“The pundits and academics who were publicly advocating for the recolonization of our continent have now refrained from doing so, at least in polite company. The very magazine that came up with the banner headline, “The Hopeless Continent” a decade ago, has recently come up with a new banner headline that simply read, “Africa Rising.” Africa is rising indeed. The African Renaissance has begun.”
The opening of the new AU headquarters was accompanied by the dedication of a memorial to victims of torture and executions at Addis Ababa's notorious Akaki prison. Other events included a celebration of the one-year anniversary of the revolution that ousted Egypt's leader Hosni Mubarak from power.