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Africa Report


VOL.7 March 2015
Houses of the Holy
East Africa sees growing trend of Chinese-built churches
By Gitonga Njeru

A growing number of church leaders from across East Africa are turning to Chinese architects to expedite construction of churches, in a trend that began about six years ago. Some church leaders say the reason for this is that some local architects and designers have a history of substandard work.

"We believe Chinese architecture is ranked among the best in the world. We are rapidly losing faith in Kenyan architects who do shoddy work and have pending court cases," Pastor Anderson Kaliche of the People's Deliverance Church told ChinAfrica. "We do not want to risk our lives by having weak buildings fall on us, as reported in many cases in the Kenyan media. Local contractors are unreliable."

Kaliche said his church, located in an upmarket Nairobi suburb, was designed and built by Chinese engineers at a much more affordable cost than local estimates.

"This [church] building cost us just 10 million shillings ($125,000). Local contractors would have charged us double and most likely [produced] substandard [work]," said the 39-year-old, adding that Chinese construction materials were strong and durable.

According to Raphael Muliungi, an architect and spokesperson for the Architectural Association of Kenya (AAK), since 2008, Chinese architects have designed and constructed over 26 churches in Kenya. In addition, about 10 are currently being designed and built by them.

"Apart from churches, we will in future witness more schools, hospitals and offices being [built by the Chinese]," said Muliungi.

The AAK, the only registered organization that accredits professional architects in the country, has been working closely with Chinese architects to ensure quality work. They are in the process of registering and accrediting architects and updating records.

"People who do the shoddy work are not members of the association - [so] sometimes it's difficult to crack down on them," Muliungi pointed out.

Historically, due to the poor record of some local building contractors in Kenya and the collapse of their high-rises, Kenyans are losing confidence in local contractors. The government recently ordered the demolition of all substandard buildings and the prosecution of their owners. Currently, 196 buildings have been earmarked for demolition countrywide.

Makumi Mwagiru, a senior professor at the Institute of Diplomacy and International Studies, University of Nairobi, told ChinAfrica that as confidence in Chinese construction grows, he foresees bigger projects taking place across Africa.

In Uganda, one of Africa's fastest-growing economies, Chinese companies have constructed more than 12 churches since 2009. The Ugandan Government has liberalized the economy in the last one and a half decades, allowing for an increase in foreign direct investments.

"The Chinese are indeed very talented in their work, I can confidently say," Pastor John Okello of the Entebbe branch of the Redeemed Life Church in Uganda told ChinAfrica. "Churches bring money [through congregation donations], which we use to build community schools, hospitals, universities and nursing homes for the elderly. The Chinese have done a good job."

Okello's church and congregation are funding independent Chinese engineers to construct a multi-million-dollar church. "When completed in 2017, the building will accommodate more than 80,000 and house more than 40 offices and some apartments for rent," he added.

According to figures from the regional intergovernmental organization East African Community, Chinese investments in church construction in the region are currently worth approximately $79 million.

Among other notable structures built by the Chinese in Kenya are the Luther Plaza, a 10-story building in Nairobi, and an extension of the All Saints' Cathedral in the same city. Fubeco (China Fushun) Ltd. is constructing the Our Lady of Rosary church in the Kiambu area near Nairobi.

In Tanzania, Chinese consultants working with architectural design and management company Tectura International have built 12 church buildings with another dozen in the design stage.

"A lot of Africans are amazed by the good things the Chinese have done," said John Muniva, a 68-year-old churchgoer in Kenya."

(Reporting from Kenya)






Africa Report
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ChinAfrica Staffer Wins "Chinese Dream" Photo Award
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-Cameroon Aims for More Chinese Visitors
-Greening International Relations
-Switch Off Your Lights, Help The Planet
Nation in Focus
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News Roundup
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-November 2014
-September 2014





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