The African Union (AU) will once more witness the Chinese meet one of their objectives during the Forum on China - Africa Cooperation (FOCAC). Chinese President Hu Jintao is expected to visit Addis Ababa in late January 2012 to inaugurate a new African Union headquarters financed by his government. The significance of the Chinese gesture towards the quest for a united African continent cannot be ignored. The Chinese have demonstrated their readiness to support projects that benefit people across the continent. The new headquarters put up at an estimated cost of $124 million raises queries as to whether African leaders are willing and ready to invest in the future of the continent beyond their political life in office.
The fifth FOCAC meeting is around the corner; what will African governments report to their citizenry as successful goals met in the past 3 years? China will report lengths and breadths of its infrastructural projects and exchange programs among others. Will an African report simply have a "thank you" note? A revamped headquarters should give the AU technocrats and political leadership a comfortable environment to make the body more relevant to African people.
The African Union has an opportunity to ride on the Chinese enthusiasm to put in place structures that will enable African people to jointly confront their daily challenges that range from food insecurity; opaque transnational sub-surface wealth concessions; civil wars; uncompetitive political environment; skewed rule of law regimes and cultural erosion among others. The AU headquarters must transform itself from a house that protects political elites to one that protects African civilians from brutal leaders and external exploitation.
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