It has been reported that America is seeking to have Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies who has been in the custody of Canadian authorities’ since December 2018, extradited to the US to face banking fraud charges and misleading an American company about Huawei‘s business in Iran.
It has emerged that the whole plan is to use Ms Mneg as a bargaining chip by Washington to get Beijing to sign a trade deal which, according to Donald Trump who spoke to Reuters immediately she was put into custody, would be the largest trade deal ever made and would be good for America’s national security.
This was confirmed by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who advised Trump to wait for the outcome of the extradition proceedings before signing any deal with Beijing. It is clear that the extradition proceedings are largely influenced by the geopolitics of the day.
This is just one of the many strategies America has deployed to try and ‘tame’ China’s meteoric rise in the global space and especially in the technology world. Instead of opting for a collaborative approach, America has taken the protectionist road.
It is not a secret that Huawei has been sourcing some of its technology from America, but America has now enacted legislation such as the National Defense Authorisation Act, 2017 - which seeks to force China to abandon or revise its high-tech industrial policy and technology transfer policy through investment control and export control - and the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernisation Act, 2018 which controls foreign investments in American high tech companies. These are just but a few.
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Considering America’s position in the globe, this protectionist approach will ultimately hinder the universal growth of global corporation towards the development of technology and the potential it bares for humanity.
Africa is a great piece in shaping the geopolitics especially when it comes to technology development. We are one of the largest, if not the largest, untapped markets in the world for technology. Our voice and stand needs to be heard and felt.
China, and in particular Huawei Technologies, has been in the forefront of partnering with Africa to advance our quest to embrace technology. The tech giant has marked many firsts from introducing the first 3G and 4G network to Africa, the first 4.5G in 2016 in Namibia and now the 5G in which it has been the most enthusiastic advocate in the African market.
Before being told who they should work with, African countries must first be respected as sovereign states with the right to make their own decision for their own development issues.
ICT Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru made this point in a recent interview on Kenya’s 5G rollout amid the US clamping down on Huawei.
“I have not seen any letter or document about stopping the project and we cannot stop even if we are asked to do so. We are an independent country,” he said.
Second, give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s; 5G is basically a technical and business issue. This this where voice of spirit of free trade and spirit of contract should be.
“Again, the government does not deal with vendors. It’s the service providers who will decide who to work with,” Mr Mucheru said.
It is time for Africa to start thinking about our role in the wider technological world, take our rightful place and be heard.
- The writer is an advocate and comments on topical issues