Africa Hall to undergo renovation worth USD 56 mln

Africa Hall, the permanent headquarters of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), which was where the predecessor of the African Union (AU)—the Organization of the African Unity (OAU)—was established, is to undergo a major renovation.  

According to information The Reporter received from UNECA, the estimated renovation costs for structural and structural fixes or modernization of the building, while preserving the historical heritage, is about USD 56.9 million.The cost is to be covered through the UN's regular budget and voluntary contributions from member states.

Currently, the project is in its planning and design phases and is expected to move towards contract bidding soon. “Planning for the multi-year project is under way, with construction expected to start in 2018.  Occupancy is expected in 2021,” UNECA said.

In an attempt to preserve Africa Hall as a heritage structure, ECA has joined hands with the Government of Ethiopia. It is to be recalled that on May 31, Carlos Lopes, the executive secretary of the UNECA met with President MulatuTeshome to discuss progress on plans to renovate the Africa Hall as part of a larger project ECA is working on to modernize the building and also create a visitors' center of experience on the grounds of the UNECA.

According to the statement UNECA sent to The Reporter, Lopes informed the President that the UN General Assembly had approved the scope, timeline and budget for the Africa Hall renovation project, which he underscored, aims to “ensure heritage preservation and conservation of Africa Hall as a permanent symbol of Africa’s history and unity."

Africa Hall has remained as a permanent headquarters of UNECA. According to records, the structure, which was built in a period of 18 months, was completed in February 1961. It covers a total area of 75,000sq.m. with anoperational area of 13,800sq.m. consisting of 3,600sq.m. of conference halls, 5,500sq.m. of offices and 4,700sq.m. of general facilities.

Back in 1971, the construction work again commenced funded by the United Nations to extend the structure, which was completed in 1975. It contains a block of 800 new offices, a 6-storey building to house the vast library and other edifices for general facilities. This extension work added a further 130,000sq.m. plot.

Along with the Addis Ababa City Hall, Africa Hall was one of the two projects designed to demonstrate, in the words of Emperor Haile-Selassie, “that it is possible to construct grand buildings here too [in Ethiopia], by erecting a couple of high-profile structures. It is not their complexity or size that matter, but the maximum possible use of home-produced materials, in order to shake our wealthy middle-class (which keeps its money under the mattress) from the inactivity that also binds it in the field of construction, and stimulate it to invest its assets also in building to make this ‘great village’ a city and a true great capital”.

It was here, in the conference center, that the African Union's predecessor, the OAU was founded on 25 May 1963. The building hosts the late Maître-Artiste World Laureate Afewerk Tekle's most famous work, Total Liberation of Africa, a 150sqm stained glass artwork.

Considered as a heritage building, the Africa Hall was designed and built by Italian firms. According to records, Arturo Mezzedimi, who was the architect, was also involved in many town planning and designing projects where Emperor Haile-Selassie was personally involved. Varnero Construction PLC built the structure.