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UNECA, Gov’t sign accord to refurbish “Africa Hall”

-renovations to cost USD 56.9 mln

The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have agreed to start the renovation and preservation of the iconic Africa Hall, located inside United Nations compound in Addis Ababa, built in the 1960s.

Signing the accords on Friday, Vera Songwe (PhD), executive secretary of the UNECA and Hirut Zemene, state minister of Foreign Affairs, said that the agreement to renovate Africa Hall comes after 60 years since the inauguration of hall and its continued historic existences.

According to Songwe, architects and contractors have been picked for the renovation job. A technical team has also been formed. Though not yet disclosed, one local and one international contractors have been selected. In addition to these, three companies have also been chosen to work on the preservation and renovation of the art works that exist in the Hall.

State minister Hirut started by praising Emperor Haileselassie I for donating the plot of land for the construction of the Hall and said that it was a pivotal occasion in the decolonization movement across Africa.

Back in 2016, the UN general assembly approved the renovation project at a cost of USD 56.9 million. The project is set to be completed by 2021.

The cost will be covered under the regular budget allocated for the UN and voluntary contributions from AU member states.

After the relocation of the continental organization, Organization of Africa Unity (OAU), Africa Hall has remained as a permanent headquarter of UNECA. According to records, the structure which was built in a period of 18-months was completed in February 1961. It covers a total area of 75,000 sq.m. with an operational area of 13,800 sq.m. consisting of 3,600 sq.m. of conference halls, 5,500 sq.m. of offices and 4,700 sq.m. of general facilities.

Back in 1971, funded by the United Nations, construction work commenced to extend the structure to its current form, which was completed in 1975. It contains a block of 800 new offices, a 6-story building to house the vast library and other edifices for general facilities. This extension work added a further 130,000 sq.m. plot.

Along with the Addis Ababa City Hall, Africa Hall was one of the two projects designed to demonstrate, in the words of Emperor Haileselassie, “that it is possible to construct grand buildings here too [in Ethiopia], by erecting a couple of high-profile structures. It is not their complexity or size that matters, but the maximum possible use of home-produced materials, in order to shake our wealthy middle-class (which keeps its money under the mattress) from the inactivity that also binds it in the field of construction and stimulate it to invest its assets in building to make this ‘great village’ a city and a true great capital”.

The building houses the late Maître-Artiste World Laureate Afewerk Tekle’s most famous work – Total Liberation of Africa – a 150 sq.m stained glass artwork.

Considered as a heritage building, the Africa Hall was designed and built by Italian firms. According to records, while Varnero Construction PLC was the one which built the structure, Arturo Mezzedimi was the architect of the iconic hall. Mezzedimi was also involved in many other town planning and designing projects in Ethiopia where Emperor Haileselassie took charge personally.