Sino-African friendship flares in AU new Conference Center building site

08:53, January 28, 2010      

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The burning sun and sizzling air did not seem to bother the construction workers, Chinese or Ethiopian, who were working hard in the building site of African Union's (AU) new conference center in Ethiopia's capital city.

The conference center project, fully-funded by the Chinese government and constructed by the China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC), was China's largest-scale aid project for Africa in decades.

"The conference center covers a construction area of some 50, 000 square meters, and will house a 2,550-seat big conference hall, a 650-seat medium conference hall, five press conference rooms and two VIP rooms, among many other facilities," Zeng Huacheng , Chinese special representative to the project told Xinhua.

A parking apron, a theatre, and a traditional Chinese-style garden, libraries and medical centers will further add to the charm of the center, Zeng said.

The design of the complex, which included historical aspects of African culture and tradition, was presented to the 2007 AU summit in Ghana's capital Accra, receiving enthusiastic applause and appreciation by African leaders.

Standing at the center of the building site, a tall, U-shape office block has shown its initial grand structure.

"The 20-storey office block, the main building of the center, will be 99.9 meters high, representing the date Sep. 9th, 1999 when African leaders agreed to establish the African Union," Zeng said.

Once finished, the building will be the highest in Addis Ababa, Zeng said, adding that seven storeys have been completed so far.

Some 350 construction workers, half from China and half from Ethiopia, are working together on the project, which started construction in June 2009 and is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2011.

The project was one of the eight measures to aid Africa announced by Chinese President Hu Jintao at the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in 2006, which was amid at supporting African countries in their efforts to strengthen themselves through unity and integration.

"In view of the importance of the project, we do not only engage both Chinese and Ethiopian workers in the construction, but also do everything to promote the friendship and cooperation between them," he said.

"We feel very happy working here," Feseha Rilabu, an Ethiopian worker, told Xinhua in fluent Chinese.

"We work closely with our Chinese colleagues just like we are brothers, and we love learning each other's language," said Rilabu, who have been working for CSCEC for a year and a half.

Rilabu was exited when he described life here in the building site. "We have high salary, very comfortable places to live, and the company has done a lot to ensure our safety," he said.

Around the construction site, every safety instruction sign is written in three languages: Chinese, English and Amaric, a local language in Ethiopia.

"This is to ensure that every worker can understand and abide by the safety rule," Zeng said.

At the administrative level, close cooperation are also carried out in an active manner. Project managers from China and the AU meet at least every two weeks to coordinate policies and ensure smooth implementation of the project, while representatives from China, Ethiopia and the AU gather every two months to coordinate project management.

AU Commission Chairperson Jean Ping has visited the building site twice since the project's commencement, according to Zeng.

AU Commission Deputy Chairperson Erastus Mwencha, who visited the site with Chinese Commerce Minister Chen Deming earlier this month, said he was impressed by the speed and quality of the construction, and expressed his appreciation for the hard-working spirit of Chinese workers.

The conference center, standing in one of the world's highest cities in altitude, will not only represent the highest level of China's construction technology, but will also be a perfect embodiment of the friendship between China and Africa, as well as a major milestone marking the new Sino-African strategic partnership, Zeng said.

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