South African President Jacob Zuma wasn’t the first African president to come under fire for having an elaborate home. There was massive outcry when the public learned he had renovated his luxurious private home at Nkandla using public funds.
You could argue that presidents require large properties for the practical reason of safety — the larger their homes, the more difficult it is for anyone who wishes them harm to break in and find them. Presidential palaces often serve as sites for political conferences, inaugurations, and confidential meetings. They need rooms for these events.
Presidential palaces often serve double duty as presidential homes and countries’ seat of government. However, some presidential palaces inspire the anger of citizens because they are too luxurious. They can become controversial when voters think the money would have been better spent elsewhere. Here are 8 of the most elaborate and impressive African presidential palaces.
The Unity Palace (Yaounde, Cameroon)
The Unity Palace has an intimidating and regal façade, with tall pillars completely surrounding the walls of the building and lush greenery dotting the hills leading up to it. Home of the president and site of important political events, Unity Palace recently received members of the diplomatic corps, including ambassadors, high commissioners, business officers and representatives of international organizations who took part in a traditional ceremony “wishing the Cameroonian dictator a Happy New Year,” according to Camerounlink.net. Paul Biya has been the president of Cameroon since 1982.
Abdeen Palace (Cairo, Egypt)
The Abdeen Palace is a luxurious building with over 500 suites, enormous parlors and wings decorated predominantly with gilt furniture. It’s one of the official residences and the principal workplace of the president of Egypt, and it’s considered one of the most sumptuous palaces on Earth. The building took nearly a decade to construct starting in 1863, and today serves as the site of five museums — the Arms Museum, Medals Museum, Presidential Gifts Museum, Silverware Museum and Documents Museum. The museums house some precious and rare historical items, as described on Cgoncairofficial.blogspot.com.
Union Buildings (Pretoria, South Africa)
The Union Buildings are the official seat of the South African government as well as the offices of the president. The buildings were designed by British architect Sir Herbert Baker and embody the traditional British monumental style, along with some markings of the Italian Renaissance. Sitting on the highest point of Pretoria and reaching nearly 300 meters long, the buildings are considered a modern-day acropolis, according to ThePresidency.gov.za. When the buildings were first built, they were the largest in the country.
State House of Namibia (Windhoek, Namibia)
The State House of Namibia is the administrative capital of Namibia and residence of the president. The building was designed and built by construction company Mansudae Overseas Projects of North Korea and took almost six years to build. It is estimated that the construction cost over $25 million, according to Namibian.com. The final building cost more than triple its original budget.
The Flagstaff House (Accra, Ghana)
The Flagstaff House cost over $45 million to build and was overseen by an Indian contractor. The house serves as the residence of the Ghanaian president and was inaugurated in 2008. Nicknamed “The Golden Jubilee House,” the building has raised objections by the opposition party due to enormous cost. Construction went at least $10 million over the original budget, according to Bbc.co.uk.
Iavoloha Palace (Antananarivo, Madagascar)
Iavoloha Palace sits at the base of a hilltop, with miles of stunning greenery behind it, and a sprawling lawn and driveway in front. Some call the building “Madagascar’s version of the U.S. White House” and some similarities are apparent, like the spacious rooms and high ceilings. A chapel sits on the grounds of the palace, says Blogs.Acu.Edu. Over 70 staff members manage the property.
Presidential Palace (Khartoum, Sudan)
The Presidential Palace in Khartoum replaced an old colonial building where the head of state sat. Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir moved into his new digs in January, 2015. The new palace opened on the anniversary of the 1885 Liberation of Khartoum, when Mohammed Ahmed al-Mahdi freed the country of British command. The inside of the building is as elaborate as the outside. The president’s new official residence is “dominated by a plush red carpet and bedecked with a magnificent chandelier,” according to MiddleeastEye.net. The building was designed by a Chinese architectural firm, provoking some protest among Sudanese.
Presidential Palace (Nouakchott, Mauritania)
The Presidential Palace in Nouakchott, Mauritania was built by the Chinese architectural group Shanghai Xian Dai Architectural Design, one of the largest and most influential architectural firms in China. The group has earned several awards for his achievements over the years, acknowledged for its impeccable planning when it comes to landscapes and buildings, says Architravel.com. This palace is no exception, with its impressive all-glass entryway, rounded towers on either side and perfectly symmetrical windows and walkways. The building sits in the city center and is a much-visited landmark.