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Mobile and internet usage has exploded across Africa

Africa_Technology Africa Business - African Internet Usage

Source - Africa Business

As mobile and internet usage has exploded across Africa in the last decade, China’s Huawei, the world’s largest supplier of telecoms equipment, has emerged as a near-ubiquitous presence for consumers and industry professionals on the continent. 

Whether shifting millions of branded smartphones per year, upgrading undersea cables off the coast of West Africa, providing technical infrastructure for the continent’s biggest mobile service and internet providers, or planning the rollout of cloud data centres in South Africa, Huawei’s diverse activities, aggressive pricing and ceaseless expansion have created the backbone for a communications revolution. 

Backed by over $108bn in annual global revenues in 2018, the firm has found willing partners in governments and businesses across the continent, allowing it to steal a march on established Western rivals. 

Yet as Huawei’s influence has expanded in Africa, China’s most significant overseas player is increasingly threatened by legal and political jeopardy abroad. Last week, the UK announced that Huawei 5G kit must be removed by 2027 as fears grow over the firm's links to the Chinese state and military. 

Huawei denies that it poses a security risk, but as countries weigh the credibility of security concerns against Huawei’s offer of next generation internet infrastructure, African policymakers have largely kept quiet. 

Yet they may soon be forced to wade into a debate with significant geopolitical, security, economic and technological implications. 

Few doubt the positive impact of the firm’s extraordinary infrastructure and equipment investments on the continent, which have played their part in connecting millions of Africans. 

China's close relations with African countries mean that a fundamental reassessment of the relationship is unlikely, and the extent to which Huawei is already embedded in many African networks raises significant questions as to whether limiting the firm’s operations is financially desirable or technically feasible. As pressure builds on Huawei and its leadership, Africa may come to loom larger in the firm’s plans as it seeks shelter in welcoming markets. 

But African policymakers would do well to take note of concerns elsewhere, learn more about Huawei's technology, and ensure the company respects the security and freedoms of African citizens. 

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