The Economic Community of West African States will soon have new headquarters thanks to a memorandum of understanding signed between China and ECOWAS.
To be constructed at a cost of US$31.6, the new building will consolidate ECOWAS operations in one building from the three it now uses. China has also agreed to maintain the new building for three years following its completion.
Terming it a mark of goodwill from China ECOWAS president Jean-Claude Brou, thanked China and confirmed the organization’s commitment to promoting future ECOWAS-China cooperation. Although a noble gesture, eyebrows are being raised.
The move comes only months after damning allegations emerged suggesting that China had been spying on the African Union headquarters in Ethiopia which it helped build in 2012.
An investigation conducted by French media Le Monde Afrique and published in late January this year, revealed that in the past five years, data from the AU servers in Ethiopia were transferred to servers in Shanghai at odd hours.
But China rejected the accusations terming them baseless.China’s ambassador to the AU, Kuang Weilin, called the article “ridiculous and preposterous” and said its publication was intended to put pressure on relations between Beijing and the continent.
“China-Africa relations have brought about benefits and a lot of opportunities. Africans are happy with it. Others are not.“
Some have interpreted China’s mega projects in Africa as a deliberate move to extend influence in Africa but with caution.
For Ian Taylor, a professor in international relations and African political economics at the University of St. Andrews, in Scotland China is quickly positioning itself as a trusted friend of African presidents.
“Obviously, the (ECOWAS) building itself doesn’t mean that China is going to extend its influence, but it does send a signal that China is positioning itself as a trusted friend of African presidents,” he told CNN.