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Notable Departures from Southern Africa’s Old European-style Legislatures 

Zimbabwe’s new parliament gives an architectural nod to the country’s famous ancient ruins; Lesotho’s has a design resembling a “mokorotlo,” the conical straw hat that’s part of national dress; and Malawi’s has a dome that looks like a calabash. These local elements make these modern parliaments notable departures from southern Africa’s old European-style legislatures built in colonial times, but in fact the new buildings were also designed and built by a foreign power: China. China has so far built or refurbished parliaments in some 15 African countries, including the Republic of Congo, Liberia, Mozambique, the Seychelles and Guinea Bissau, as well as other government buildings such as Burundi’s presidential palace and the African Union headquarters in Ethiopia. Africa’s largest trade partner has become known for its multibillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative infrastructure projects on the continent, such as railways and ports. But for years it has also been building grand new parliaments and other government buildings, which cost less but are equally part of Beijing’s diplomatic push in the region.