China's influence in Africa includes church construction

September 13, 2011

Nairobi, Kenya, September 13 (ENInews)--At Holy Family Roman Catholic
Basilica in Nairobi, African workers were recently singing lively Christian
worship songs as they broke ground for the construction of a new office block
for the Nairobi Archdiocese. 

However, they were not working for an African or British construction
company. China Zhongxing Construction is building Maurice Cardinal Otunga
Plaza, one of many church contracts Chinese construction companies have won in
recent years as China has expanded its influence in Africa. Now, Chinese
firms build many bridges, roads and stadiums across the continent. 

"We have worked with them before and we have had a very good experience
with them," the Rev. Anthony Mwituria, who oversees construction in the
archdiocese, said in an interview. "We issued a tender and they came with the
best deal." Church officials say the companies are reliable, quick and
efficient. 

"If you ask people to point out two things that China has accomplished,
sometimes without difficulty, people will show you. Stadiums, roads, it is
practical. If a road is to be built in two years, they give you a road," the
Rev. Mbaya Tshiakany, a leader from Church of Christ in Congo, Kasai
Oriental Province told ENInews.

In the past, construction was undertaken by companies from nations that
had sent missionaries to Africa, such as Britain, and in recent decades,
companies from North America.

"Our traditional brothers together with their companies have helped us
construct churches," said Ugandan Anglican Bishop Stanley Ntagali of
Masindi-Kitara diocese in an interview. However, he added, "China has also become a
world economic power and they want to have a grip on Africa in this global
village we are living in today." 

Country statistics on successful Chinese bids for church construction are
not readily available, but in Kenya, ENInews found out that China Zhongxing
has also constructed affordable houses for the Archdiocese of Nairobi
staff. It has also built a church for the Faith Evangelistic Ministries, a
Kenyan Pentecostal group.

Another company, Fubeco Ltd. (China Funshin), is constructing Our Lady of
Rosary Ridgeway's Roman Catholic Church in Kiambu area near Nairobi. The
company constructed Luther Plaza, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Kenya
headquarters.

"China is now winning contracts to build churches because its corporations
out-bid those from elsewhere," explained Jesse Mugambi, professor of
philosophy and religious studies from the University of Nairobi.

China is now the leading trading partner with Africa. In 2009, with US$90
billion worth of trade, the country overtook France and the U.K., Africa's
traditional commercial partners.

China's international contracts value hit US$126.2 billion the same year
having registered a 20 per cent year on year increase and achieved a total
revenue of US$340.7 billion, according to China International Contractors
Association.

China also prints most of the Bibles used by Christians in Africa.
Although reports say millions of Chinese Christians who do not worship in
state-sanctioned churches are denied freedom of worship, the world's largest Bible
printing facility opened in Nanjing in 2008.

Amity Printing Company, the only state-approved Christian publisher, which
works in collaboration with the United Bible Societies, doubled its annual
Bible printing output. In 2007, Amity printed 6 million Bibles, but the
new facility gave the company potential to print up to 12 million per year.

"China is offered contracts to print Bibles because this can be done in
China much more cost-effectively than anywhere in the West," said Mugambi.