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The recent spotlight on Huawei, the world’s seventh-largest tech firm, would constitute a public relations disaster for any company. Earlier this year, the U.S. Justice Department indicted Meng Wanzhou, the tech giant’s chief financial officer, for allegedly defrauding multiple financial institutions in breach of U.S.-imposed sanctions on Iran. A second indictment claimed Huawei has a bounty system that rewards overseas employees for engaging in industrial espionage.
If the Trump administration succeeds in blacklisting Huawei from engaging with key U.S. allies, Huawei would probably become more dependent on other markets for its products and services. Countries across the continent will still be eager to satisfy significant demands for low-cost telecom infrastructure.
W. Gyude Moore clearly lays out the calculus facing African countries. The concern is not about whether Huawei products create vulnerabilities and “back doors” to critical data but more about “basic connectivity.” Moore adds: “It is about connecting each country to the internet in a way that is adequate, dependable and affordable.”
The Trump administration, in a December 2018 speech by national security adviser John Bolton, revealed a new Africa Strategy that sees U.S. commercial engagement in Africa as a way to push back against Chinese influence. However, the U.S. attempt to shutter Huawei may very well push the controversial company deeper into Africa, as many countries still need what it offers: communications at cheaper prices.