ADDIS ABABA —
China and the African Union today signed a memorandum of understanding that the Chinese are dubbing the project of the century. Signed under the framework of the continent’s Agenda 2063 that seeks to drive development in Africa, the MoU on Continental transport, will change the face of Africa if it is fully implemented.
African Union Commission Chairperson, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and Mr. Zhang Ming, the Special Envoy of the Chinese government and Vice Foreign Minister of China, signed the memorandum that will see China help Africa develop high speed rail linking all 54 African countries through high speed railway, aviation, road highways and industrialization infrastructure.
Dlamini-Zuma said although there are some historical ties between Africa and China, this mammoth project is the first of its kind between China and Africa at continental level.
She said it will help Africans develop and deal with issues of joblessness, poverty and related issues.
Mr. Zhang dubbed the MoU, the document of the century, adding though ambitious and broad, the project was feasible.
He said it will change the face of Africa, especially as economies in most African countries continue to improve.
He said China has enough expertise and knowledge on high speed rail, road transportation and related issues that will help change the lives of ordinary people.
In aviation for example, Mr. Zhang said travel hubs will be created cutting the existing cord that sees Africans traveling within the continent having to go to the West first to catch connecting flights back to Africa.
The two refused to quantify the cost of the project but Dlamini-Zuma said teams on the ground were still to come up with a figure, work out financing modalities and related issues.
She said a nuclear of team has already been put in place to work on the high speed rail, aviation and industrialization with teams already working in the countries in which the project will begin.
Meanwhile, the AU chairperson in outlining the AU summit agenda to journalists, said one of the most important issues outside terrorism, conflict in a number of countries and peace and security that heads of state will discuss this week, is the funding of the Pan African body.
She said alternative sources of funding need to be secured for the AU with member states contributing more. The AU needs more predictable funding from member states in addition to what is coming in from donor organizations.
President Robert Mugabe is expected to attend the summit with other African leaders. He’s also expected to assume the chairmanship of the AU.