Chinese-Built Headquarters Towers Over African Union Summit

Posted June 3rd, 2013 at 5:28 pm (UTC+0)

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry addresses a meeting with students in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia May 26, during the 50th anniversary ceremonies for the African Union. Photo: AP

Chinese-Built Headquarters Towers Over African Union Summit

Kerry: U.S. Behind on Africa Investment, “We Need to Change That”


In the USA vs. China contest for influence in Africa, China was the clear winner at celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Organization of African Unity.


Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang spoke to heads of state at the African Union’s bright new (Chinese-built) $200-million headquarters: “not only a new landmark in Addis Ababa but also the latest landmark in the long friendship between China and Africa,” declared China’s state-run Xinhua news agency.


Beneath the 20-story tower now topping the skyline of the Ethiopian capital, Wang entered the paneled conference hall to hearty applause, praising the alliance for political self-determination and for pushing forward Africa’s fight against imperialism, racism, and colonialism.


Kerry bumped from telecast


Hours later, across town in a rain-soaked, near-empty warehouse of a Millennium Hall, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s speech was cut from the televised official program. With other speakers’ remarks running long, Kerry was bumped after Brazilian President Dilma Rouseff made headlines by writing off $900-million in African debt.


Given a few minutes off-camera during a late dinner at the Sheraton, Kerry spoke of working together on peace, security, trade, democracy, good governance, and human rights.


“The proverb tells us, ‘If you want to go quickly, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together,'” Kerry said. “In the coming days, Africa and the Americas will go farther than anyone could have imagined five decades ago. And I will tell you this: We are determined to do it together.”


But for Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, going farther clearly means going with China.


“It is encouraging to note that some of our friends and partners have given priority to infrastructure development in Africa in terms of their strategy partnership with our continent,” he told the AU summit. “In this regard I wish to take this opportunity to express my deepest appreciation to China for investing billions to assist us in our development endeavors.”


China’s six-fold increase in trade


Where Kerry talked about hopes for an AIDS-free generation, Vice Premier Wang talked about the past decade’s six-fold increase in China-Africa trade to more than $120 billion — a difference not lost on the secretary of state.


China has been cultivating its relations with Africa. Here Chinese leaader Xi Jingping greets African Union chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma in Beijing last February 13. Photo: AP

“China and Brazil have frankly been investing more in Africa than we have. That has to change,” Kerry told students at Addis Ababa University. “But I’m concerned, though, that some of the involvement of some countries here is not as transparent as the United States is, and some of it can, in fact, undermine democracy depending on how it is done.”


Asked if he was talking about China, Kerry said: “I’m talking about some countries. And I think we need to be involved. We need to be thoughtful about how – what kind of standards are we living up to, because you don’t want to lose your sovereignty or lose opportunities depending on how that happens.”


Chinese officials at the AU summit responded by comparing commitment — contrasting President Xi Jinping’s visits to Tanzania, Congo, and South Africa during his first month in power with President Barack Obama’s 2009 day in Ghana and his approaching first extensive trip to Tanzania, South Africa, and Senegal in this, his fifth year in office.


Jennifer Cooke, Africa director for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, says those presidential stops are an opportunity to re-engage in Africa at a higher level than the Obama administration’s first term.


“It didn’t have the resources that the Bush administration did for big splashy initiatives like PEPFAR (Aids relief program) and the Millennium Challenge Account,” Cooke says. “It has tried to do things on food security, on expanding and integrating global health.”


A more active, private-sector approach to trade and investment “speaks to a much more aspirational, positive engagement with Africa rather than getting mired into the kind of intractable, difficult, complex conflicts like DRC and Sudan and the Sahel.”


“Those kinds of commercial investment relationships really are much more partnerships of equals for the United States not to be looking at Africa as conflict, disease, and hunger but also as a place where partnerships are possible,” Cooke says.


“There’s an opportunity to say, ‘Look, we’re back and we are prepared to engage at a different level, in different ways than we did in the past, but in a much more positive way.'”


17 responses to “Chinese-Built Headquarters Towers Over African Union Summit”

  1. yonas says:

    I think USA has never done a good thing for Africa. we have been in political conflict,war, poverty,corruption..etc. Look the current head of African state. most of them undemocratic. I still will not expect from USA and western countries. Yes of course, China only interested on their profit . they don’t care who lead Africa, for how many years. And also get a lot of profit but still they are doing something better. America never understand what is going in African people. what attitude we are having to them. It is becoming too late. By now, what I want to get from USA is just to leave Africa and let’s see another country [China] and evaluate. …

  2. […] Chinese-Built Headquarters Towers Over African Union Summit State of Affairs […]

  3. Joseph Hoo says:

    For the Ivy League graduated U.S. Secretaries of State, such as John Kerry, Hilary Clinton etc…, the true reason that they even pay lip service to Africa is to try to win some black votes in the next U.S. presidential election, in primaries and hopefully, in November ballot. Go quick, but definitely not go far. Never more than four years.

  4. KKK says:

    Kerry is saying the Black people’s of Africa are not adults, are not qualified to decide for themselves. They must apprentice themselves and be subordinate to the White man. He should put the money where his mouth is and be more “transparent” about his policy.

  5. Vincent says:

    The whole west were only interested to police the Africans as their security partners,as the Africans remained to protect their economic interests. They talk about HIV, and when the people have no work, what will they do? They were only interested in the petroleum sectors but never offer the people that their lands produced all these nada. China may not be different, but there is nothing like when somebody can even be stealing from you and come to your aid when you are in need of him. Lack of jobs create insecurity, and people were able to produce more children because they have no work to tie them down. We are welcoming the people of Brazil. The Bible says that the First will be the Last. God has not forgotten the Africans, and one day the West will come to ask for partnership and it will be too late.

  6. Halleluyah says:

    i think Chinese are good but for me i believe US as my people or better than any other people in the planet, it is public truth that the western tried to demolish or destroy Africa one way or another but that was when they were savage …
    But now they are kind of understanding or adopting or accepting the truth and reality…
    deep down in my heart i believe we all are the same…
    so please stop pushing, blaming, revenging in any way, but go together and go far …
    for me white people they are my white family, black people they are my black family and Asian people they are my Asian family…
    Don’t worry we are BIG family from BIG FATHER our creator YAHWEH not budha, not egziaber, not god, not alah, not ong bang, not hananim not your other thoughts or melted materials …

  7. John Wang says:

    I think what China has been doing in Africa is much better than USA.

  8. Olosunta says:

    No outsiders can solve Africa problem unless Africans are truly ready to solve their own problems by themselves by tackling the cancerous corruption that’s undermining development in the continent. We created our problems and we are the one who can tackle and solve it.

    • Kyle says:

      I definitely agree. Africa is the subject in neither the article nor all of these comments except this one. Until Africa as a whole decides that they need to fight these fights themselves, “help” from the east and west should only be considered second fiddle to what is going on domestically for the countries of the continent. Another thing that people don’t seem to realize is that both Chinese and American governments are flexing “muscle.” Everyone wants to go ahead and say “oh, this country is good because they gave money.” No, that country is not good because they gave money. That country and their governments only care about you and your cause to heighten their social standings within societies home and abroad. Human beings are inherently bad.

    • Christian says:

      Agree. However, fighting corruption cannot be an end to itself. It is a good thing but equivalent to cleaning the area to lay a foundation. Suppose Africa becomes %100 corruption free, do they even known what of foundation to lay? A foundation cannot be laid unless the final structure can be envisioned, but that vision is seriously lacking in Africa. Political leaders are only concerned about enabling their tribe or ethnic group get a larger piece of public resources that should be used for development infrastructure.

  9. C harles says:

    The question you ask yourself is, “What exactly has US done for any country in Africa?”. Look at the mirage of Chinese in all the countries of Africa working on contruction site. They are not directing, they are not controling, they are working. The game is over for the US

  10. Benjamin says:

    If countries treat each other with respect and fairness then that will guide relations more than talk. The U.S., unfortunately, has historically been terrible in Africa – yes, they have U.S. citizens like Bill Gates, volunteers, and U.S. charities that do great work for Africans, but at the same time their big oil and military / political agendas have been the furthest thing away from transparency and fairness (and Democracy is a joke; i.e. U.S. best friend Saudi Arabia exemplifies U.S. ideas of democracy/freedom in the region). China at least is honest in saying, ‘hey, we need your resources and here is what we will pay. your politics are yours to deal with. we will do business with anyone. no colonies, no military bases for drones, etc…’

  11. Henry Mylton says:

    What are you complaining about, Lawrence, you decided to expand the discussion, in a pretty transparent effort to deflect the discussion towards President Bush. If there was any intent to, “Certainly not enough to inspire such a verbose fir(sp) of pique”, it was caused by you trying to open a can of old worms.

  12. johnli says:

    What Secretary of State Kerry says is “Don’t take Chinese money, cause it’s not good for you. Appreciate us Americans, even though we don’t give you a lot, but we are truly helping you.” How foolish this is! Kerry still thinks Africans were born yesterday?

  13. Christian says:

    The U.S. is great country, actually greatest country on earth, being one of the countries to build itself and continue changing from within without external help or pressures. Used slavery in the past, but stopped slavery by itself. Unfortunately when it comes to international relations and morality the U.S. comes last. Very selfish and only interested in countries it can benefit from. The state of the only country ever colonized by the U.S., Liberia, speak for itself regarding the kind of relation the U.S. can have with a third world country. However, the U.S. should not be blamed for the lack of development in Africa. The Africans and their leaders are today – 50 years after the era of independence – not even heading in the right direction. The rule of law and development vision is virtually non-existent. China’s presence in Africa is for profit, but good for Africa, since they are the only and probably last hope for Africa.

Scott Stearns

Scott Stearns

Scott Stearns is VOA’s State Department correspondent. He has worked as VOA’s Dakar Bureau Chief, White House correspondent, and Nairobi Bureau Chief since beginning his career as a freelance reporter in the Liberian civil war. He has written for the BBC, UPI, the Associated Press, The Jerusalem Post, and The Economist. Scott has a Bachelors and Masters in Journalism from Northwestern University.



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