ADDIS ABABA – The UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) has launched a $57 million renovation project to facelift the iconic Africa Hall in Addis Ababa.
Senior officials of the ECA, the African Union, and the Ethiopian government attended the groundbreaking ceremony on Friday.
The launch came two years after the ECA signed the main renovation works contract with UAE-registred joint venture Africa Hall Projects FZE.
Since its conception more than half a century ago, Africa Hall has been a truly living symbol of African history, unity, and culture.
Emperor of Ethiopia Haile Selassie conceived and donated the Africa Hall to the UN with a vision of attracting the organization to Africa and uniting African nations.
It was first inaugurated in 1961 as the permanent seat of ECA and went on to host a number of key gatherings in the history of Pan-Africanism, including the liberation of Africa from colonialism.
– Stick with ‘original design’ –
ECA’s Acting Executive Secretary Antonio Pedro said the Hall represents Africa’s past, present, and future development trajectory.
The renovation work is expected to reflect that and more.
“The modernization of the Africa Hall will preserve and restore the historical and cultural values embedded in its architecture, and also enable Africa to tap into the global creative industry, which is estimated to reach US$985 billion by 2025,” Pedro said during the ground-breaking event.
The building, designed by Italian architect Arturo Mezzedimi, houses important artworks, including Total Liberation of Africa, the most famous work of Ethiopian artist Afewerk Tekle as well as a 150-sqm stained glass panel that symbolizes the past, present, and future of Africa.
The renovations will “respect the original design principles including Afewek Tekle’s stained-glass triptych – ‘The Total Liberation of Africa’ – and main features with special attention paid to artworks and signs, whilst upholding the best international standards and practice,” Pedro added.
The Africa Hall will open in mid-2024, and become a place that will showcase great and notable works of pan-African artists.
It will also serve as a hub for a variety of activities focused on showcasing Africa’s history, the achievements of the UN’s family and Ethiopia’s role in Africa’s modern history and culture.
– INSPIRING INITIATIVE –
During its lifetime, Africa Hall became a famous landmark venue for pan-African and African Renaissance events.
It is the birthplace of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), which is now the African Union (AU), and whose founding Charter was signed in the Hall in 1963.
Deputy Chairperson of the AU Commission, Monique Nsanzabaganwa commended the renovation project, saying it was an important initiative to rejuvenate an important landmark of pan-Africanism and a symbol of the continental renaissance.
The deputy chair said lessons from the renovation of the Africa Hall will be used in the establishment of the envisaged Great African Museum to preserve and promote Africa’s rich cultural heritage.
The renovation work and the plan to make the iconic building a hub for African culture and Art could also inspire current generations, according to Ethiopia’s State Minister of Foreign Affairs Tesfaye Yilma.
The State Minister said Addis Ababa was privileged to host the ECA Headquarters which houses the Africa Hall as well as the OAU, now the African Union.
“The symbolism of this building is significant as we prepare to celebrate the 60th year of the founding of the OAU in 2023,” State Minister Tesfaye said. “This is a time for Africa to reflect on how to manage complications that trace their origins back to colonialism”.
“Africa is experiencing economic marginalization, political and security crisis, and health emergencies,” he said, noting that the iconic project should inspire current generations to overcome challenges as their predecessors did.