Sunday, January 29, 2012

New African Union headquarters

On 28 January 2012, after three years of construction, China’s most senior political adviser, Jia Qinglin handed over a golden key to African leaders outside the Chinese-funded African Union’s new headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  The 100m-tall building is a symbol of the commitment China is making to improve trade and develop African infrastructure.  While the West has regularly withheld humanitarian aid to Africa until governance issues were addressed, China’s relationship with Africa is purely business.
Trade between China and Africa increased more than six-fold in the past decade, up to 120bn USD in 2011.  Jia Qinglin noted, “The towering complex speaks volumes about our friendship to the African people, and testifies to our strong resolve to support African development.”
Chinese goods, including cars made from Chinese parts but assembled in Ethiopia, flood the African market.  How will the influx of Chinese products shape Africa’s growing middle class?  What is the cultural security impact?  Exposure is traditionally welcomed, but how will exposure and access without corresponding improvements in governance and civil society influence future generations?  African businesspeople note that they don’t mind who it is that brings direct investment to Africa, as long as it does not hurt the local community.  Can new foreign businesses function consistently without changing local political, improving education, and increasing civil society participation?
China’s involvement in Africa is worth observing.  Cultural Security is a perception that insofar as it deserves both expansion and refinement so must we struggle to predict its direction and protect its integrity.  How is this done between those that are best equipped to give and those whose role it is to receive?
Originally posted by Yasmeen Hussain on

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