GO WEST Project By Michiel Hulshof & Daan Roggeveen NON-LAGOS THE CHINESE IMPACT ON URBANISATION IN AFRICA Picking a present for an old friend can be difficult. The perfect gift has the right size (not too small, but not too extravagant either), is highly personal, and should leave a lasting impression. If you really want to impress, it should also be something that took a big effort on your part. Keeping these rules in mind is difficult enough when your old friend is, in fact, a human. Imagine the hassle you’d go through when picking a present for an entire continent! Yet this was exactly what Chinese leaders did. To show the depth of their countries friendship for Africa, they came up with what they considered a truly special gift: a new headquarters for the African Union. It took them no more than three years to finish construction of the striking, 200 million US dollar new assembly house in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa. When it opened its doors on 26 December 2011, it was Addis’ tallest building, making it a landmark icon that is visible from virtually every angle of the city. It was a Chinese effort in every detail: commissioned by the Chinese ministry of Commerce, designed by the Tongji Urban Planning & Design Institute in Shanghai and constructed by the China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC) with some 1,100 on-site workers, roughly half of whom were Chinese. Most of the construction materials came from back home as well. In front of the building the Chinese donated a five-metre high Tai Hu Shi, a stone to “symbolise the friendship between Africa and China”. As a finishing touch, the elevators in African Union’s new headquarters greet all passengers with a friendly voice. “Thank you for riding Shanghai Mitsubishi Elevator”. EXPORTING THE CHINESE MODEL The African Union building is exemplary of China’s “stadium diplomacy”, handing out buildings and sport stadiums to strengthen ties with African governments. These landmarks do not only symbolise the strong and fast rise of urban Africa, but also make a clear statement: China is more than willing to play a role in shaping 243 MICHIEL HULSHOF, journalist, is a partner at Tertium, a strategic communications bureau based in Amsterdam. Architect DAAN ROGGEVEEN is partner at MORE Architecture, a multidisciplinary office for research and architecture in Shanghai. Together they oversee the Go West Project, a think tank on emerging megacities.
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