As the Chinese mobile tech firm Huawei fights U.S. efforts to disrupt its operations due to spying accusations, the African Union has strengthened ties with the Chinese firm.
Huawei is the top supplier of information and communications technology in Africa, according to the Financial Times.
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Huawei operates in 40 African countries and has built more than 50 percent of the continent’s 4G mobile network since it began operations in Kenya in 1998, according to ASPI.
The company’s position in Africa has been strengthened with a three-year extension to a deal with the African Union. This comes despite allegations that Huawei hacked computers in the A.U.’s regional headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia between 2012 and 2017, Quartz reports.
As part of the agreement, Huawei plans to partner with the continental body to strengthen sectors including internet of things, cloud computing, broadband, rolling out 5G networks, and artificial intelligence.
In 2018, French newspaper Le Monde reported that computer systems installed by Huawei in the African Union headquarters had been transferring confidential information on a daily basis to servers in China during the five-year period.
Ironically, the extended agreement between the regional body and the Chinese tech company is expected to involve support for the AU in dealing with cybersecurity issues, according to Quartz.
The African Union, the Chinese government and Huawei have all denied that the computer systems were compromised in any way, FT reports.
U.S. President Donald Trump has been leading a campaign urging America’s allies to cut ties with Huawei, saying the company’s technology was used to allow the Chinese government to spy.
Huawei maintains that it is a private company and the Chinese government has no ownership or control over it, but the CIA says it has proof that Huawei was funded by China’s military and intelligence agencies, Forbes reported.
U.S. tech giant Google responded to Trump’s request by withholding its Android software from Huawei, according to BBC.
This has put Africa in the awkward position of having to choose between U.S. and Chinese technology, with Huawei already dominating large parts of the African telecoms market and infrastructure.