China says it is ready to build Africa Centre for Disease Control(CDC) headquarters in Ethiopia this year at a cost of $80m, but the US is concerned on the move.
For China, the Africa CDC headquarters will help strengthen Africa’s public health system and further cement the Sino-Africa ties. But for America, the building will be used to spy on Africa data.
“It’s a threat to Africa, the continent has vast amounts of genomic data and the Chinese want to build the CDC to eventually steal the data from all the other centres,” an administration official told the Financial Times.
It is not the first time that China is being accused of spying on Africa. In May this year, a U.S.-based conservative think tank Heritage Foundation, observed that Chinese funded buildings in Africa could be a likely vector for spying.
The think thank notes the fact that Chinese companies are all legally obliged to help the Chinese Communist Party gather intelligence. These companies, the report said,have built at least 186 government buildings in Africa and at least 14 sensitive intra governmental telecommunication networks.
And China continues to reject such claims as ridiculous and baseless.
“China-Africa relations have brought about benefits and a lot of opportunities. Africans are happy with it. Others are not,” says Chinese Ambassador to Africa Union Kuang Weilin.
Some member states within the African Union have also expressed concerns over the plan to allow China to build the headquarters worth $80bn in Addis Ababa.
The opposing member states say the African Union commission didn’t secure the needed official approval for the project.
Located in the African Village, south of Addis Ababa, the new site covers an area of 90,000m2 with a total construction area of nearly 40,000m2. When completed the building will include an emergency operation centre, a data centre, laboratory, resource centre, briefing rooms, training centre, conference centre, offices, and expatriate apartments.
The Africa CDC headquarters will have five regional Africa CDC hubs, some of which were built by the U.S. based in Egypt, Nigeria, Gabon, Kenya and Zambia, which handle high-risk viruses, health crises, research and data collection.
The US claims that it gave $14m to Africa CDC headquarters in its first year of operation and still pays the Africa CDC director’s salary along with those of senior medical staff.
“If the Chinese build the headquarters, the US will have nothing to do with Africa CDC.” the administrator said.
China, however, has reiterated that it will continue with construction of the Africa CDC headquarters regardless.
Chinese President Xi Jinping says the CDC will greatly help in the fight against Covid-19.
Yet the US intends to oppose construction of the project. But is not clear how it will go about it.