No Free Lunch : 8 Official Gov’t buildings “Donated” by China to African countries.


Zimbabwe’s parliament just got a new home and it’s a gift from Beijing; China completely built and funded the US$160 million complex.

It’s just one of many jewels in China’s ‘palace diplomacy’ crown in Africa, there are many more of such projects.

Here are some others:

In 2003, China committed US$18 million for a new parliament building in Guinea-Bissau. It was completed two years later, but reports stated that the actual cost of the building was only US$6 million. China had already built the country’s national stadium and a government palace.

In 2010 China handed over a $41 million parliament building to Malawi’s government. (In 2020 parliamentarians complained that the building leaked enough to disrupt proceedings and there were cracks in the walls)

China also built and funded the US$200 million headquarters of the African Union in Addis Ababa. In 2019 Beijing denied reports made by Le Monde that China put bugs in walls and desks and downloaded data from their servers every night for five years.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is similarly getting a new headquarters building in Abuja worth $31.6 million, courtesy of China.

Burundi inaugurated a $22 million presidential palace in 2019, fully funded and built by China. It was presented as ‘a symbol of friendship and cooperation’ between the two countries.

China had a gift for Congo too, donating a parliament building in the capital Brazzaville at a cost of US$58m

China gave parliament buildings to Lesotho in 2012,

and in 2017 and 2019, China pledged to rebuild parliament buildings for Gabon and Sierra Leone as well. The Gabon parliament building was delivered in 2021 and the Sierra Leone building too.


Some are quick to frame China’s influence in Africa in terms of how it’s interpreted by the West. But the more pressing question for Africans is whether their leaders ensure these investments fulfill Africans’ agendas, not just Chinas.