How U.S Tech Sanctions on China Present an opportunity for Africa

By Tarwana Ernest

As far back as 2019, the US placed sanctions on Chinese Tech Company, Huawei alleging spying and industrial espionage against US Tech companies. This led the Americans to place sanctions on Chinese Tech firms which subsequently led to subsequent Huawei mobile devices starting from their flagship P and Mate series being disabled from Google Android infrastructure. These events could be construed as a product of the US China Trade War.

Among others, the U.S has claims that the decision to sanction Chinese tech giant – Huawei is a result of the company’s tight collaboration with Chinese government and therefore cannot trust them in terms of security. Huawei strongly denies U.S’ accusation arguing that they are victims of America’s tech-nationalism which is meant to shield U.S tech firms from stiff competition Huawei is putting up using security concerns as a cover up. Beijing also accuses Washington of launching what they call unfair attacks against Chinese tech firms in what China sees as America’s efforts to contain China’s technology growth.

The U.S has also succeeded in convincing allies to isolate Huawei with the United Kingdom (UK) government blocking the tech giant from its G5 network rollout. While the U.S explicitly mentioned national security concerns as a reason for banning Huawei, in 2020, the UK’s security agencies concluded that any risk posed by Huawei was manageable. Indeed, while announcing the decision to side-line Huawei, then UK’s Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Oliver Dowden explained that London decided to lockout Huawei out of its market as a result of U.S’ sanctions against the firm which meant that Huawei could no longer use American chips in their kits.

However, China’s growth in the tech sector has hardly been impeded. Over the past few years, China has worked quietly to build internal capacity and wean itself off dependence to US firms. Huawei has been at the forefront of this progress.

Equally, Huawei infrastructure has aided most European countries in building their 5G networks. Some of these include Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland.

Due to the reputable nature of the Chinese firm and its infrastructure, this presents an opportunity for African nations to look aggressively towards China in building their data infrastructure and connectivity.

South Africa has been at that forefront after the recent BRICS Africa Summit, 2023. This including signing bilateral agreements with Huawei to build South Africa’s data infrastructure. If all goes according to plan, South Africa will be one of the few African nations with the most robust 5G networks on the continent.

The Chinese firm also partnered with Saudi Arabia to build cloud data centres serving the Middle East, Central Asia and North Africa. This presents a chance for African nations to liaise with Huawei in having their data held closer to the continent. In the near future, an African country with capacity could ewaully position itself to host data centres serving the continent or a particular region.

African nations can equally rely on Chinese Tech infrastructure to push for bilateral deals to encourage technology transfer which aides education and innovation on the continent. This can be through setting up innovation hubs and subsequent educational scholarships for students with interest and desire to harness their talents in a technologically advancing world. China presents itself as an opportunity for African youth to build indigenous expertise by learning from an advanced economy with historic links to the continent.

While U.S’ is still trying to convince more countries including in Africa to follow their suit and disengage from Chinese tech firms, African countries should not join this loosing battle. They should grab any opportunity should Chinese tech firms show readiness to work with them.

According to a paper published by Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, which is ranked as the world’s third most influential Think Tank, the formerly technological giants; “Japan and the United States have watched warily as China’s economic heft has grown and as the technological sophistication of its manufacturing base has increased” leaving the U.S worried that Beijing may soon overtake Washington in this important technological revolution. The paper concluded that presently, apart from China, no other country on its own can outcompete China’s determination in technology advancement and suggested that for the U.S to make it, they must form alliances with other like-minded countries as Japan and “update their decades old technological cooperation and deepen funding pools on certain shared strategic priorities, such as artificial intelligence and quantum computing”.

As James L. Schoff, a senior fellow in Carnegie observed; “fear of “losing” this competition (Technology) is fuelling an unprecedented scale of investment and a zero-sum mentality that could tempt countries to overreact in ways that would damage their national interests and broader global interests,” stressing that it is better to work with China than in technological advancement than attempting to isolate them.

To conclude, China’s trade conflict with the West presents a chance for Africa to develop her data and technological infrastructure with the aid of Chinese tech firms. This does not mean that if the West presents a fair proposal to support African countries technology adavancement support they should not take it. What must be avoided is U.S’ tendence of attempting to force other countries to deoulple from China’s techology.

Talwana is a Digital Research Fellow at the Deevelopment Watch centre.



Huawei’s Meng Wanzhou is a victim of market war and tec-nationalism

By Allawi Ssemanda

After spending nearly three years under house arrest in Canada, Huawei’s chief executive, Meng Wanzhou gained her freedom and was allowed to return to her home country, China.  Media reported that the decision to free her followed a deal between Meng, her legal team and U.S’ justice Department that Meng agrees to some wrong doing and be granted deferred prosecution. Before her release, Meng appeared before a Brooklyn, New York court via video link where she pleaded not guilty. The U.S requested Canada to arrest her alleging that she engaged herself in bank wire fraud by concealing information from Hong Kong based HSBS bank with intention of bypassing U.S sanctions and do business with Iran.

Meng’s legal team has always criticised her arrest and prosecution terming it political and that it “displays legal and factual defects rarely seen in fraud prosecutions, at least at the committal stage,” further arguing that the U.S side citing Trump administration abused what they called the “good faith” of the extradition process.

Meng’s arrest caused sharp dispute between Beijing and Ottawa on one hand and with Washington on the other as China insisted that the arrest was political and harassment of Chinese citizens. Indeed, Canadian ambassador to China then John McCallum was categorical,

publicly arguing that the U.S extradition request for Meng was seriously flawed and that it would be “great for Canada” if the U.S dropped the request. Just hours later, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dismissed Ambassador John McCallum from his ambassadorial role.

Nonmatter legal manoeuvrers and diplomatic words accusers front to defend Meng’s arrest and prosecution, critical analysis and the pattern before and after her arrest points at Washington’s tech-nationalism, the urge to expand her legal and political hegemony and geopolitical undertones. It can be argued that Meng’s arrest is arguably part of a broader scheme to drive her company – Huawei which is considered the world’s 5G leader out of market since it threatens traditional telecommunications firms’ strategic dominance.

It should be recalled that in January 2018, U.S’ National Security Council published a document and recommended that government review Huawei’s so-called threats in 5G area. Just after 2 months, U.S’ trade rep complained that China was using her tech firms to damage U.S interests.

In the same year, U.S amplified her campaigns against Huawei through public statements and legislate bills were introduced to ensure Huawei is kicked and locked outside U.S’ market as Washington campaigned amongst her allies to do the same. It is arguably not a coincidence that Meng was arrested in the same year, 1st December 2018. Indeed, at that time president Trump observed that Meng was pawn or a bargaining chip for the U.S to win some concessions from Beijing. When asked if he would consider releasing Meng should China accept Trump’s trade deal terms, president Trump observed; “If I think it’s good for what will be certainly the largest trade deal ever made — which is a very important thing — what’s good for national security — I would certainly intervene if I thought it was necessary.” From such, it is not far-fetched to conclude that Meng was arrested to be used as pawn in U.S’ trade war with China.

In May 2019, the U.S included Huawei on state department entity list thereby effectively blocking Google’s Android from working with Huawei before imposing “U.S foreign direct product” rule on Huawei thereby banning any oversea firm from using U.S origin patents to supply Huawei products.

The case which Justice Department alleges that Meng concealed rHuawei’s relationship with a subsidiary firm in Iran to bypassed Washington’s sanctions against Iran lack international laws backing. For a record, Meng was dealing with HSBC bank for her company’s business in Iran. Despite U.S’ secondary sanctions on companies doing business with Teheran, it is important to note that these are secondary sanctions and are unilateral and have never been tested based on international law and as such, no international legal frame work to force all countries to enforce such sanctions as it is when sanctions are imposed by United Nations.

In otherwards, U.S’ insistence that Meng’s Huawei doing business with a firm based in Iran is illegal is laughable. It is a textbook example of U.S’ hegemonic tendencies driven by their libido dominandi – the urge to dominate the world through bullying means.

Even the claims that Huawei is a security threat is not backed but U.S tech firms’ failure to outcompete Huawei’s technology. According to a study by Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the U.S just worried that Chinese tech firms are taking over due to their steadfast investments in innovations; “the United States watched warily as China’s economic heft has grown and as the technological sophistication of its manufacturing base has increased.” For example, in Africa and entire global north, Huawei’ has a far wider market, a development that threatens U.S’ market.

The study further contends that, other than China,  no single country can outsmart Chinese tech firms in  technological innovations. In conclusion, one can conclude that Huawei’s Meng Wanzhou was arrested not for reasons Washington and Ottawa advanced but she was a victim of geopolitical fights, and U.S’ fear of a prospering tech giant – Huawei.  Despite what may have been tough times during her imprisonment, her arrest in one way or the other was a blessing in disguise for it tested Huawei’s resilience. Also, the unity of not just Chinese people but voices of people from different countries all over the world when it comes to standing with a person many thinks is unfairly targeted. From the humble gesture a Chinese college student who took a bouquet of flowers to Chinese Foreign ministry thanking Beijing for what she called government’s efforts in ensuring Meng is freed to collection of almost 15 million signatures from over 100 countries petitioning Canada to release Meng, this arrest should serve as an example that when you’re innocent, there are good people who will always stand by you. To Meng Wanzhou, welcome back to your homeland!

Allawi Ssemanda, is Executive Director of  DWC. 


U.S – UK Huawei Ban: Tecnationalism or a Looming New Tech Cold War?



By Ssemanda Allawi.

 After several months of U.S’ campaign against Chinese telecom giant Huawei claiming the move was due to security concerns, United Kingdom (UK) gave in to Washington’s fear-mongering as London announced a decision to lock Huawei out of their 5G network rollout.

While the U.S has always fronted what they call security concerns as the main reason for their campaign against Huawei, early this year, UK’s security agencies concluded that any risk posed by the vendor (Huawei) was manageable. Indeed, while announcing the decision to side-line Huawei, UK’s secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, Oliver Dowden informed UK parliament that London decided to lock Huawei out of its market as a result of U.S’ sanctions against the firm which meant that Huawei could no longer use American chips in their kits.

What is clear here is that UK government did not ban Huawei on ground of national security but rather American sanctions on Huawei which some analysts argue are political. Indeed, President Trump’s top Republican party leaders have openly argued that playing “China Card” and Trump attacking China and Chinese firms plays well for his re-election campaign.

While it is now more clear that U.S’ interests are not solely security concerns but rather Trump Administration’s political mathematics of what “card” will give them support in November polls, U.S’ campaign against Chinese firms such Huawei and recently TikTok is emblematic of slowly but steady development of tech-protectionism and America’s latest attempt to change the current global order which is facilitated by U.S’ fear of other emerging tech giants like China.

Whereas Washington insist that their fears are related to the so-called sovereignty and security concerns as they continue to push other countries to back their stand against Huawei and other Chinese tech-firms, it is becoming more clearer that the concerns the U.S is giving are just scapegoats and arguably, the real reason is that the U.S is scared of competition from Chinese firms which have proved to be steadfast and very innovative in terms of technology. It is not a surprise that Huawei which U.S is determined to chase out of market currently is the leading G5 service provider in the world and TikTok on the other hand is the world’s most popular short-form video app including in the U.S with over 80 million users globally.

An argument can therefore be made that U.S’ campaign against Chinese firms is not that these firms pause a security threat but U.S firms have failed to match Chinese firm’s technology advancement and hence this tricky campaign against them.

According to a paper published by Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, which is ranked as the world’s third most influential Think Tank published on 29th June 2020, the formerly technological giants; “Japan and the United States have watched warily as China’s economic heft has grown and as the technological sophistication of its manufacturing base has increased” which leaves the U.S more worried that China is advancing more in technology terms and thereby creating unprecedented fear in Washington with establishments in fear of “losing” this important technological revolution, thus, leaving the U.S to overreact.

The paper further argues that presently, apart from China, there is no other country that on its own has muscle to emerge victorious with excellent technological innovations and suggests the U.S must form allies with other countries such as Japan and “update their decades-old bilateral science and technology cooperation agreement, especially by doing more to nurture private-sector collaboration; and broaden cooperation and deepen funding pools on certain shared strategic priorities, such as artificial intelligence and quantum computing”.

Indeed, after UK’s announcement of locking out Huawei out of their 5G rollout, there have been corridor talks suggesting the need to come up with an International tech partnership established on ideals  of the so-called Five Eye intelligence sharing group (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, UK and U.S) or another one based on the recently created so-called ‘D10’ which include G7 countries plus Australia, India and South Korea otherwise known as the ‘democratic 10’.

Arguably, this is based on the fear that China is taking over tech revolution and no other single country may manage to counter them and hence, the need for an alliance in this mission.

The challenge this practice of the U.S looking at China’s great success in technology as competition which leaves the U.S trailing has left the U.S aggressively campaigning against Chinese tech companies and it does not only affect Chinese firms but will in long run affect the U.S itself and other countries that will take U.S’ side.

As James L. Schoff, a senior fellow in Carnegie Think Tank observed; “Fear of “losing” this competition (Technology) is fuelling an unprecedented scale of investment and a zero-sum mentality that could tempt countries to overreact in ways that would damage their national interests and broader global interests.”

The above observation is correct. As a result of their decision to appease U.S by blocking Huawei, on top of losing billions of pounds, the decision meant that plans for UK’s 5G rollout will delay several years as other countries like China move on with their 5G rollout plans uninterrupted.

Put differently, U.S’ campaign against Huawei and other Chinese tech firms has far reaching negative implications to countries that are pressured to follow U.S’ demands as analysts continue to warn that the U.S’ negative campaign against Huawei and West’s attempt to establish a Western Competitor to challenge China’s Huawei is a miscalculation and “ludicrous” gamble.

Though there are other potential alternatives such as Sweden’s Ericsson, Finland’s Nokia, Japan’s Fujitsu or South Korea’s Samsung that can supply countries like UK with G5, the process of switching cannot be realised in very short time. Also, just left the European Union recently, there are higher chances that they are not likely to consider an EU member country’s firm like Finland’s Nokia or Sweden’s Ericsson to provide them with G5 which gives leaves Japan’s Fujitsu or South Koreas’ Samsung possible favourites. Indeed, South Korea’s Samsung was quick to show how willing they are to rollout their G5 in UK.

Whichever Country UK choose to supply them G5, UK cannot completely divorce the relationship with China considering China’s investments in UK. International Monitory Fund (IMF) figures shows China among top investors in the UK with investments in key sectors such as nuclear powers plants like the £20 bn project at Hinkley, and infrastructure sector.

In 2019 alone, China was UK’s 4th source of inputs which valued at £49bn and 6th biggest export market £30.7 which both shows Chinese huge role in UK’s economic development.

Therefore, while the U.S may want to influence the West to disengage from their times with China in an effort ensure the U.S is not aged in the so-called 4th Industrial tech revolution, as Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s James. L Schoff put it; “The United States and Japan do not have to upend globalization to compete effectively with China” this maybe not be that easy as Washington may think and it has other far reaching effects to other countries as discussed.


Ssemanda Allawi,

Research Fellow; Development Watch Centre.

Author; Global Governance and Norm Contestation: How BRICS is

Reshaping Global Order.

Research Interest: Role of New Media in conducting diplomacy.

Twitter @SsemandaAllawi


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