Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, April 13, 2018 (ECA) – The Economic Commission for Africa and Ethiopia on Friday signed an agreement marking the beginning of renovations to modernize the iconic Africa Hall, the birthplace of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) which is now the African Union.
ECA Executive Secretary, Vera Songwe, and Ethiopia’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Hirut Zemene Kasa, signed the agreement to pave way for the renovations which will cost $57 million resulting in the modernization of the hall’s facilities to international standards.
Ms. Songwe thanked the government of Ethiopia and UN staff for working tirelessly on the renovation project which she said would not only transform Africa Hall into a rejuvenated, state-of-the-art facility, but also contribute towards preserving and restoring historical and cultural values embedded in its architecture and ensure it serves more African citizens than before.
“We are 60 years later into that decision to construct Africa Hall and its beautiful artwork. A lot has happened in 60 years in our countries and on our continent,” she said.
“This is not just about signing a piece of paper, it’s a continuation of the history that the United Nations family has with the government of Ethiopia, that the continent of Africa has with Ethiopia,” she said.
She applauded African Ambassadors in Ethiopia who sit on the Africa Hall renovations committee, adding their interest shows how important the hall is in terms of the continent’s history.
For her part Ms. Zemene Kasa said Ethiopia will work with the ECA on the timely delivery of the project. The two leaders said they were both committed to ensure there were no slippages so that the transformed Africa Hall is delivered on schedule in 2021.
“Today we are celebrating the more than 60 years of service that Africa Hall has given to the African continent; the project will encourage African youth to learn more about their history, especially the decision by pan-African leaders to work together and speak as one with the formation of the OAU,” she said.
Ms. Kasa paid special tribute to Emperor Haile Selassie “for being conscious of the importance of coming together as a continent.” She promised Ethiopia’s support throughout the renovation project.
ECA’s Director of the Public Information and Knowledge Management Division, Jimmy Ocitti, gave a brief history of the Africa Hall before the signing ceremony, describing the hall as ‘perhaps the single most significant building in the history of Africa’s independence’.
Africa Hall was built between 1959 and 1961 and inaugurated by Emperor Haile Selassie I on 26 February 1961.
Mr. Ocitti said the renovations aim to rectify a multitude of deficiencies and deteriorations within the Hall to ensure it remains safe, functional and is in strict compliance with the highest international standards for conference facilities while preserving its originality.
Importantly, he added, there will be a Visitors Centre, enriched with permanent displays and exhibitions of Africa’s rich history for appreciation through guided public tours, schools and other institutions wishing to explore the history resident in this facility.
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