US President Donald Trump has been leading a public campaign urging American allies to cut ties with Huawei, saying the company’s technology, among other things, was a security risk because it allowed the Chinese government to spy.
History of Huawei in Africa
Huawei has been in Africa since 1998, and has operation in about 40 out of the 54 countries in Africa. Since then the company has explored the potential of IT in the continent.
In April 2013, Huawei’s LTE TDD solutions were used to build wireless pipes of great bandwidth that helped MTN construct its Uganda, and Africa’s first commercial LTE TDD network. The precedent set in Uganda heralded similar developments in South African and Nigeria the same year.
In 2018, MTC Namibia partnered with Huawei to put the 4T6S solution into large-scale commercial use, a deployment aimed at tackling an increasing influx of tourists and people the city generates ultra-high data traffic in Windhoek, a burgeoning commercial city of the country.
In short, Huawei currently operates in 40 countries and has built at least 50% of Africa’s 4G networks. It is also providing technology for smart city projects while maintaining several research partnerships.
Technological contribution to Africa
Without Huawei/Chinese smartphones and their sponsored networks, most Africans won’t be connected to the internet by phone today, and Chinese companies remain the biggest suppliers of smartphones in the continent today.
Huawei deployments of 4T6S in Africa have helped increased data transmission with the average upload and download time shortened by 52% in some cases.
The cooperation in the innovative Single RAN Pro and 4.5G Evolution technologies is considered a milestone in China/Africa relationship, and it’s also expected to usher in the digital economy and 5G network, the super-fast network known as the internet iteration that will power next generation (Internet of Things) technologies.
African students have also benefited from Chinese Seeds for the Future, an ambitious global CSR activities initiated by Huawei in 2008. The program seeks to develop local ICT talents in telecommunication sector. Every year, Huawei invites students to discuss future trends and show them how they can harness new opportunities.
Between China and the USA?
And here is the big question, between China and the USA, whose internet system will Africa adopt?
The campaign against China raging in Washington is clearly as a move by the US government to rein in on Chinese growing technological advancement. While Huawei and Google, two symbols of both countries, are now caught up in the tussle, it’s only a matter of time before African consumers reliant on Chinese internet are dragged into the quagmire.
Many people are worried about being locked out of Google services, an inevitable consequence of Huawei isolation, at the same time cheap and dual sim cards Chinese phone are practically indispensable.
Few US tech companies understands the African market as well as the Chinese, American products are irrelevant to average smartphones users in Lagos or Nairobi. Huawei on the hand has mastered, beyond the technological landscape, also the politics, social, and general workings of the continent. Huawei is strategically advantaged vis-à-vis their US counterpart.
African leaders, though handicapped by myopic view of global trends, can form a united front to maneuver between Google and Huawei in order to get the best out of the situation. Our goal in any case should be protection of the end users, both their wallet and personal information.