Trump has been replaced in the American presidency, but there are some things he left behind. One of them is the Clean Network of the US State Department, an initiative to lock Chinese equipment makers like Huawei and ZTE out of 5G networks especially.
Eswatini just became the first African country and latest nation to join the group, heeding to Trump’s longstanding call to boycott Chinese tech due to security concerns. Mostly, the idea is to make it harder for Beijing to spy on the world via innovative equipment.
Anarchy in monarchy?
Eswatini, the Africa’s last absolute monarchical system of government, has become upfront about keeping it cell phone networks clean by not dealing with any Chinese contractors or service providers for telecommunications. This, according to the kingdom, is one way of safeguarding its information security.
As the first African country to join a network of more than 50 “clean” countries, telecoms providers and global high-tech firms, Eswatini reechoes one of the longstanding issues associated with Chinese-made tech products in the continent. Telcos like MTN South Africa, Vodacom and Telma Madagascar seem to already be boycotting Huawei’s 5G equipment, but not officially.
As a matter of fight, there is quite the clamor in favor of some parts of China’s tech products in Africa. From the president of South Africa to the CEO of Kenya’s biggest telco, the support for Huawei in the 5G industry of the continent has made quite the subject matter. Their most similar opinions are tied to the fact that Africa stands no risk dealing with them.
According to TechCentral, the United States is still in talks with more than 40 countries looking to join the Clean Network Group, many of which are from Africa. Should more African nations really join the bandwagon, it could be nail on the coffin mostly for Huawei’s ambitions in the region.
What does this mean?
Historically, most African countries have been pro-China, which makes Eswatini’s move somewhat different from the norm. Well, that’s why it’s a first in the continent. However, the landlocked country in the eastern flank of South Africa has maintained diplomatic relations with Taiwan. In the process, its dealings with China have become dented with rife in recent years.
“The Clean Network program is the Trump Administration’s comprehensive approach to safeguarding the nation’s assets including citizens’ privacy and companies’ most sensitive information from aggressive intrusions by malign actors, such as the Chinese Communist Party,” the joint statement says.
The Clean Network was established in 2020 to ensure that Chinese mobile phone applications, desktop software and cloud computing providers cannot access data concerning Americans. The association publicly lists the tech vendors and operators considered trusted by the American government.
Eswatini is the 60th nation to join the group, a position which shows that Africa is arriving late to the function. Nevertheless, it could be interesting to see what unfolds in these parts, especially as Huawei’s latest ordeal in the continent is getting a hushed 5G job with Safaricom, East Africa’s most valuable company.