African Union launches China-funded office in Beijing

The African Union has launched a representational office in China’s capital, Beijing. The Chinese-funded building was unveiled in the presence of Chadian politician/ Chairperson of the African Union, Moussa Faki Mahamat, the Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

According to Mahamat, “China welcomed the planned establishment of an African Union Office in Beijing to ensure effective and timely follow-up of the China-Africa partnership and committed to supporting the setting up of this Office. This representation will also support the work of the African Group of Ambassadors in Beijing, to ensure alignment with African Union positions.”

Similarly, the African Union’s Ethiopian headquarters which cost $200 million (£127m) was funded by China as a gift to the AU; most of the materials used were imported from China and even the furnishings were paid for by Beijing. The construction, which began in January 2009 and involved 1,200 Chinese and Ethiopian workers, took three years to finish.

The building is said to be a symbol of China’s drive for influence in Africa. In 2011, the AU headquarters was hacked, and China was the major suspect. French newspaper Le Monde stated that data from computers in the Chinese-built building had been transferred nightly to Chinese servers for five years.

The hack wasn’t detected until January 2017 when technicians noticed a peak in data usage between midnight and 2 am every night. After a thorough investigation, it was discovered that African Union’s confidential data was being copied on to servers in Shanghai. China denied the allegations.

Although the AU acquired its own servers and refused Chinese offers to reconfigure them after the hack discovery, the bugging, data theft and the alleged Chinese involvement did not put a strain on the AU-China relationship as the commission still let the Asian country build its Beijing office.

The AU’s Ethiopian headquarters and Beijing office is far from the only government building China has constructed in Africa. Recently, China inked deals to build and finance parliament buildings in Zimbabwe and the Republic of Congo. Also, the entire Central Business District of Egypt’s new administrative capital was handled by China.

Finished projects include parliament buildings in MalawiSeychellesGuinea-Bissau, and Lesotho as well as a renovation of the parliament building of Sierra Leone.