‘You only work on a building like this once in a lifetime’

A building for peace and security

GIZ’s International Services Department was responsible for the project management when a new Peace and Security Building was erected for the African Union in Ethiopia. Martin Hansen is Director General of the Department.


GIZ has built an extremely modern building for the African Union. How did that come about?

The German Federal Foreign Office commissioned us. We have demonstrated with a whole series of other projects in Ethiopia that we can handle projects of this sort reliably. For the Ethiopian Government, for instance, we built 15 universities – using Ethiopian building contractors, who we trained. That way the vitally important expertise remains in the country.

How many GIZ staff were involved in the project?

Two civil engineers with relevant expertise were in charge of the project, and were on site from beginning to end. In the course of the project though, other German master craftspersons, engineers and specialists were in Addis Ababa for various aspects of construction, in order to pass on their expertise to the Ethiopian side.

Now the building has been completed and handed over – is GIZ’s work over?

We are now putting in place the ongoing facility management capacities within the AU. This is no normal building. It is an extremely complex high tech construction. To operate a building like this smoothly, a team must be trained. The AU has its own Facility Management, which is responsible for the entire compound in Addis Ababa. The technicians must be able to professionally operate the air-conditioning and ventilation systems, the entire electronic systems, the IT – all these technical elements of the new building. The commission for this work will run for one year, until September 2017, and is being financed by the German Federal Foreign Office. Some of the Ethiopian construction specialists who worked on the building will also be involved.

How have the people of Addis Ababa and Ethiopia benefitted from the building?

The special feature of the project and our approach is that the entire building was built by Ethiopians: the concrete work, the painting, the floor screed, the ventilation, the gardens and all the rest. So the result is not just a strikingly attractive building. The full range of expertise needed to build a high tech structure of this sort has been passed on. Not only to the large number of craftspersons and experts, but also to small and larger companies, some of which were specially founded. Everything in the building and involved with the building was custom designed and produced on site – from the individual stones used in the natural stone façade to the chairs and upholstery for the individual conference rooms. This newly acquired knowledge will remain in the country. And that is what our company believes in.

…’learning on the job’ with a sustainable impact then?

Exactly – the people who were involved in this project are very proud to have been on board. They have gained self-confidence. They trust their own capabilities and skills. You only work on a building like this once in a lifetime, and everybody who had the chance to be part of it has really benefitted! That in itself is a life-changing experience.