Why Huawei’s Google issues worry Africa

Why Huawei’s Google issues worry Africa

By Blair Morris

September 23, 2019

Mobile phone vendor

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Most Africans are online today thanks to low-cost Chinese smartphones.

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Google’s choice to withhold its Android software from Huawei is being seen as the beginning of a technology cold war that could oblige African nations – in the future – to select in between US and Chinese innovation, analysts have informed the BBC.

A lot of Africans linking to the internet today are likely to be using a Chinese mobile phone, powered by a Chinese-built network, and at least half of the time, it was built by Chinese tech giant, Huawei.

” Huawei constructed big swathes of Africa’s current IT facilities and if the US achieves success in debilitating the company, the aftershocks might be extremely unpleasant for Africa’s growing tech sector that now counts on a business in Washington’s crosshairs,” Eric Olander, from the South Africa-based China Africa task, states.

United States President Donald Trump has actually been leading a public campaign advising American allies to cut ties with Huawei, stating the business’s innovation, among other things, was a security risk because it enabled the Chinese federal government to spy.

The business has consistently denied the claims.

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A newspaper heading in a South African newspaper reacting to Google disallowing some Huawei phones from updates to its Android software application.

The US campaign could trigger what Eric Schmidt, Google’s former CEO, forecasted would be the inevitable bifurcation of the internet, in between a “Chinese-led internet and a non-Chinese web led by America”.

If this takes place, Africa ought to not take sides, Harriet Kariuki, a Sino-African relations specialist, told the BBC.

” It’s not our battle, we should rather focus on what works for us,” she said.

African nations must instead come together to inform individuals about what is at stake, and ideally settle on an EU-type information security law to secure African customers, Ms Kariuki said.

” This is probably the time Africa considers establishing its own innovations relevant to its market rather of being passive consumers. I wish to see African countries come together and push back against this sneaking digital colonisation,” she informed the BBC.

‘ The African Union hack’

While the recent issue about Huawei has been concentrated on communications networks in the West, there are also claims of a previous security breach in Africa.

Critics of Huawei operations indicate a report in January 2018 in French paper Le Monde that found that the computer system at the African Union head office in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, the majority of which was set up by Huawei, had allegedly been jeopardized.

The discovery found that for five years, between the hours of midnight and 0200, information from the AU’s servers was moved more than 8,000 km away – to servers in Shanghai.

The accusations were denied by the African Union and Chinese officials.

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The African Union rejected that its Huawei computer system was hacked.

African federal governments, even those with close security relationships with the US, have mostly remained of the dispute about Huawei – and the reasons are obvious.

Huawei runs a large operation in Africa consisting of being a significant seller of mobile phones.

It has built the majority of Africa’s 4G internet network, Cobus van Staden, a Senior China-Africa researcher at the South African Institute of International Affairs, told the BBC.

The CEO of Kenya’s telecom giant Safaricom Bob Collymore stated Huawei had been a “excellent partner for lots of years”.

” We want to stick to our partners as much as we can, however there can be some useful problems if the embargo is on American companies working with Huawei due to the fact that it is an interconnected company,” he stated in a recent speech.

About Huawei in Africa:

  • Introduced Africa operations in 1998 in Kenya
  • Runs in 40 nations
  • Developed a minimum of 50%of Africa’s 4G network
  • Offering technology for clever city projects
  • Runs numerous research collaborations
  • Fourth major smartphone seller

Sources: Australian Strategic Policy Institute, Huawei, IDC

The business, which opened its first workplace in Africa in 1998, is also in lead to win agreements to present 5G network on the continent.

The super-fast network is promoted as the web version that will power “Web of Things” innovations, wise cities, autonomous vehicles, and more.

” The scaling of Huawei’s existence on the continent has actually been enabled by being the very first business to make use of the potential of the IT economy in Africa, and having the wherewithal to support its tasks,” Mr Van Staden stated.

” China’s tied-aid conditions that requires African governments to work with Chinese business, has actually also helped it,” he added.

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According to technology research company IDC, Huawei is presently the fourth greatest mobile phone seller in Africa, behind another Chinese company, Transsion, which makes the Tecno and Infinix brands, and Samsung.

All 4 brand names currently utilize Google’s Android os.

Huawei’s supremacy and its relationship with federal governments in Africa could can be found in useful if the so-called tech cold war between China and the United States threatens its African operations.

” Africa is the last tech market worldwide and supremacy in it would be crucial,” Mr Van Staden said.

” Some people, like here in South Africa, where Huawei is a significant gamer, are stressed over being locked out of the Google environment but Huawei might use the present situation to alter the game”.

” Few United States companies understand how to work in the African market, to make appropriate products for customers on the continent. Huawei, could utilize the current situation to alter the calculus and develop software applications in languages that genuinely serves the African market,” Mr van Staden said.

Most Africans are online today thanks to low-cost Chinese phones and lots of are more worried about the cost of the devices and other features – like a double SIM-card phone, and long battery life – than an operating system, he included.

US web vs China internet

Iginio Gagliardone, author of China Africa and the Future of the Web, agreed that the continuous tussle between China and the US could simply be what presses Huawei to increase making use of its own software to support its growing mobile phone market.

But he told the BBC it wouldn’t be cheap or easy to build this capacity.

It would likewise be tough to export the closed web design from China, which would mean needing consumers to use Baidu rather than Google and Sina Weibo rather of Twitter.

Nevertheless, WeChat, a multipurpose app that integrates social media platforms, messaging and mobile payments, could take off in Africa.

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Huawei is the 4th most significant seller of smartphones in Africa in a market controlled by Android-powered phones.

So will Africa be forced to decide?

” African countries ought to pass by a side, in reality it would be fascinating if during this tech cold war it might form a non-aligned movement that cares for its interests,” Mr Gagliardone said.

His research study, despite suspicion, has not found any evidence that China has actually been actively urging nations in Africa to adopt its censored variation of the web.

” What you see is that China is providing items that have been asked for by African governments,” Mr Gagliardone said.

However, Mr Gagliardone thinks that China, in its push to safeguard its businesses, might utilize its relationship with African federal governments to develop protocols that provide its business an advantage over the West.

” I, however, don’t see the consumer market being affected, I still see customers continue to have access to various items to choose from,” he said.

The taking place tech cold war is an opportunity and the continent must not be forced to choose a side, according to Ms Kariuki.

Nevertheless, according to Fazlin Fransman, from South Africa’s Moja Research Institute, ” the current internet and technology boom [in Africa] is in substantial part due to the fact that of the investment of Chinese tech companies.

Africa, in her view, has actually currently chosen a side, and it is China.

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About Blair Morris