The rumors are that the Chinese tech company Huawei has started developing instruments for the local government to commit cyber-espionage in Africa. Newspapers speculate that Huawei’s expansion into the African continent is not about entering a market that appreciates cheap over expensive.
Media reports claim that Huawei is wiring up the whole of Africa in order to allow Chinese spooks to spy on the continent. But these reports seem to ignore the equally rapid expansion of other companies, for example, from India. Apparently, sole evidence of these newspapers is that American politicians have labeled Huawei a national security threat, even though this ruling was ignored in other more civilized parts of the world. As a result, they see Huawei’s efforts investing billions of dollars in Africa over the last two decades and providing affordable mobiles, online access, and telecommunications networks as sinister.
As you can see, paranoia of the United States about Africa seems to be getting worse. Within the last few months the company had to close major deals in Africa to get more areas on the grid – those too are claimed to be about spying. It was former NSA and CIA head Michael Hayden who raised warning flags about the company’s suspected espionage, insisting that Chinese firms see themselves in global economic competition with the US. As a result, they see real advantages of exploiting African networks in the future.
Overall, the paranoia is more about shutting China out of markets that the US and the US companies would quite like to own. Huawei makes this difficult because it is cheaper. Allegations of the United States have focused on Huawei supplying back-end telecommunications equipment, including Wi-Fi routers, mobile networks and communications hardware, to 1/3 of the world, claiming that such gear can easily provide backdoors. How does the US know that? It’s simple – the country does exactly the same sort of thing to its own citizens.
The newspaper articles claim that just the Chinese government having access to the architecture of the system will be a tremendous advantage for the country should it want to engage in any electronic surveillance. However, it is unclear why anyone would purchase US gear when it is known that the country has indicated that it is cheerfully willing to spy on its allies.