Sino-African Architecture

A Look at the Rise of Chinese-Built Projects Across the African Continent

Illustration by Hannah Wood

Headquarters for the African Union, Ethiopia

The colossal headquarters for the African Union in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, often referred to as “China’s gift to Africa”, was part of the first wave of high-profile construction projects completed by China on the African continent. At 1.2 million square feet, the $235 million HQ became the tallest building in the city when the doors officially opened in 2012 and continues to be an iconic landmark of Addis’ skyline. In front of the HQ rests a 16-foot high Tai Hu Shi stone donated by the Chinese Ministry of Commerce to “symbolize the friendship between Africa and China.”

HQ for the African Union building in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. © Tongji Architectural Design Group
Inside the African Union HQ building. © Tongji Architectural Design Group

Parliament of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe

In November 2018, the state-owned Shanghai Construction Group (SHG) broke ground on the construction of a landmark new parliament building for Zimbabwe. The 355,000-square foot building is located in the village of Mount Hampden⁠ — 15 miles west of the capital Harare⁠ — which president Mnangagwa has earmarked to become a new parliamentary district to replace the former colonial precinct downtown. Once the parliament building is complete, it is expected that both the judiciary and executive branch of the Zimbabwean government will relocate to Mount Hampden. In anticipation of the move, the Chinese company Anjin is in the process of constructing a hotel complex in the area.

Architects’ impression of the new parliament complex gifted by the Chinese government to Zimbabwe © SHG
Étoile Rouge Congolaise, Bodys Isek Kingelez, 1990.

Copperbelt International Airport, Zambia

Copperbelt International Airport, Zambia. Image © Zambia Airports Corporation Limited
Terminal building with a floating glass facade from © ‘Design of the Copperbelt Airport’ 2016

The River Estate, Kenya

River Estate Nairobi © Erdemann Property Ltd.
lan of a 1-bedroom apartment in the River Estate Nairobi © Erdemann Property Ltd

Congolese Parliament, Republic of the Congo (Congo-Brazzaville)

Decades of civil war and militia conflict, coupled with the recent downturn in global oil prices, has left half the population the Republic of Congo in abject poverty, according to the World Bank. The new Congolese Parliament building, a $58 million complex currently under construction by Jiangsu Provincial Construction Group Co Ltd., has caused a national controversy from both the political opposition and human rights groups active in the area who argue that it is drawing attention and resources away from more acute issues affecting the country. Despite the building being donated from Beijing, the huge cost of the project has also exacerbated internal fears over ballooning foreign debt.

National officials of Congo-Brazzaville and China stand together in front of a render of the new parliament building © Unknown

Dar es Salaam University Library, Tanzania

USDM library building at the university campus in Dar es Salaam © Jones Ndekia
Graduation ceremony at the USDM library building © Kasunga Faustine
peakit Films: England When China Met Africa © Mark and Nick Francis 2010



Architect and researcher based in Tanzania, East Africa. Follow for discussions on how global developments are shaping the built environment👇

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Hannah Wood

Architect and researcher based in Tanzania, East Africa. Follow for discussions on how global developments are shaping the built environment👇