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 from the ECA and Ethiopian government attended the groundbreaking ceremony on Friday.
It came a couple of years after the ECA signed the main renovation works contract with Africa Hall Projects FZE – a joint venture incorporated as a free zone enterprise under the laws of the UAE.
Emperor of Ethiopia Haile Selassie conceived and donated the Africa Hall to the UN in the early 1960s with a vision of attracting the organization to Africa and uniting African nations.
The Hall, inaugurated in 1961 as the permanent seat of ECA, went on host a number of key meetings in the history of Pan-Africanism, including the liberation of Africa from colonialism.
Designed by Italian architect Mezzedimi, the building houses important artworks, including Total Liberation of Africa, the most famous work of Ethiopian artist Afewerk Tekle.
A 150-sqm stained glass panel symbolizes the past, present and future of Africa.
Firms “to stick with original design”
ECA’s Acting Executive Secretary Antonio Pedro, in paying tribute to the generosity by Ethiopia, said the Hall represents Africa’s past, present and future development trajectory.
“The modernization of the Africa Hall will preserve and restore the historical and cultural values embedded in its architecture,” revealed Pedro.
He said it will also “enable Africa to tap into the global creative industry, which is estimated to reach US$985 billion by 2025”.
In 2015, the UN General Assembly approved the budget of $57 million for the renovation project funded by the 193 member states.
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 art works and signs, whilst upholding the best international standards and practice.”
ECA officials expects the Africa Hall to be 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 continental renaissance.
The 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 deputy chair said.
The project amd its plan to make the iconic building a hub for African culture and Art coul 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.
Africa is already witnessing the power of the creative sector.
In 2015, the creative industries, comprising music, film, art and fashion, generated a total of US$ 4.8 billion for Nigeria with the country currently earning over US$ 11 billion and generating 4.2 million jobs, contributing about 2.3% of the West African nation’s GDP.
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