Multinational ICT company Huawei has reaffirmed its strategy in Africa - specifically its role in smart city infrastructure development and rollout, and has lauded South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa for what it referred to as a "statement of confidence in Huawei", as well as Nigeria's Vice President Yemi Osinbajo for his public support.
In a statement Huawei claims Ramaphosa backed the company on 5 July 2019 at the 4IRSA digital economy summit in Johannesburg.
The company also quotes Nigeria's Osinbajo as having said: "We practically welcome every company that wants to do business in Nigeria. Huawei is in Nigeria and so are all the other technology companies."
According to Huawei, Ramaphosa said the US action banning Huawei was an example of protectionism which would affect South Africa's telecommunications sector.
Ramaphosa is quoted by the tech company as saying: "This standoff between China and the US where the technology company Huawei is being used as victim because of its successes is an example of protectionism that will affect our own telecommunications sector, particularly the efforts to roll out the 5G network, causing a setback on other networks as well."
On 22 May 2019 CNN online reported that mobile networks in Asia and Europe were suspending orders for Huawei smartphones, following the recent decision by the US to restrict the company's access to American technology.
CNN added that Huawei can no longer source software or components from US suppliers without a license, and that while existing devices are unaffected, the restrictions "threaten future Huawei products and its leading position in building super-fast next generation 5G networks."
In May 2019 the company said although it cannot officially comment on the intentions of South African networks, it did not anticipate any major impact from the US ban and reports of mobile networks in Asia and Europe cancelling orders, on the South African market.
The company issued a statement which read, in part:"After the US Department of Commerce announced its decision to add Huawei to its entity list, our production and supply chains have been complying with all applicable laws and regulations, and everything remains business as usual. At the moment, our supplier ARM is reviewing and evaluating the impact of the Commerce Department's decision, and is actively communicating with the US government. We completely understand and support them."
"Recently, many of our partners have chosen to stick with us and weather this storm together. We are immensely grateful for this. Moving forward, Huawei will continue working with our partners to protect the interests of our customers and consumers around the globe, maintain order in the market, and ensure the healthy development of our industry."
Impact on Africa
Will the volatile relationship between the US and the company have any impact or influence on its ambitions in Africa – particularly in terms of smart city infrastructure development?
Huawei's response is that it already has "a complete set of robust and effective business continuity management systems" and "with these systems in place, the majority of our products will continue to serve our customers even under extreme conditions."
"The key to smartness is combining open technology infrastructure with a unified platform that can keep up with the relentless supply of data from tens of thousands of diverse systems and data formats, such as video, image and text."
At Huawei Connect 2018 in Shanghai, China, Zheng Zhibin, president of the global smart city business department at Huawei Enterprise said: "Huawei is committed to becoming a smart city enabler and promoter by providing a city nervous system."
"Currently, Huawei is developing a '+AI Smart City Digital Platform' which is built upon the strategy of 'Platform + Ecosystem'. Based on its ICT infrastructure, Huawei integrates the IOT, big data and AI, video cloud, Geographic Information System, and converged communications resources through the industry enablement platform," he added.
Huawei forms part of what it describes as 'an open partnership ecosystem' with over 400 global partners, including SAP, Hexagon, Esri, Accenture, Schindler, GE and Honeywell, to explore smart and safe city innovation.
According to the company, it has established 14 OpenLabs and 36 Joint Innovation Centres globally, and launched a worldwide Developer Enablement Plan 2.0 to encourage innovation.