How will Huawei saga affect Rwandans?

Google’s decision to withhold its Android software from Chinese telecom company Huawei is expected to have ripple effects in the world. Locally an economic analyst said that this breakup will have effect on people’s consumption in Africa. / Net photo

American tech giant Google’s decision to withhold its Android software from Chinese telecom company Huawei is expected to have ripple effects across the world, analysts have predicted.

Google barred the world’s second biggest smartphone maker, Huawei, from some updates to the Android operating system, dealing a blow to the Chinese company.

The move is mainly attributed to the ongoing trade war between the United States and China.

The decision by Google mainly affects the company’s future smart phone releases, which could lose access to crucial Android services, including Google Play, Maps and the Gmail app.

These may include the upcoming Mate 30 Range, whose release is slated for October.

This came after the US administration added Huawei to the list of companies that American firms cannot trade with, unless they have a license.

US President Donald Trump has been leading a public campaign urging American allies to cut ties with Huawei, saying the company’s technology, among other things, was a security risk because it allowed the Chinese government “to spy” on other countries.

Huawei phones run on Google’s Android mobile operating system (OS), the base code which the phones run on.

However, the US government temporarily eased some of the restrictions on Huawei, allowing the company to purchase US-made goods and provide software updates to existing Huawei handsets for the next three months.

The ban effects are expected to be felt not only in Europe or Asia, but also in Africa.

Huawei currently operates in 40 African countries, has built at least 50% of Africa’s 4G network, provides technology for smart city projects, runs several research partnerships, and is the fourth major smartphone seller in Africa.

Speaking to The New Times, Teddy Kaberuka, an economic analyst in Rwanda, said that the saga will have effect on people’s consumption in Africa, though he reckoned that the effects will be more felt in China and Asia where Huawei phones are more used.

“It is very hard to say the effects will cost this much,” he said.

He echoed the same sentiments for the Rwandan market, noting that the Rwandan consumers have a number of other options to choose from, if they want to change.

He predicted that Huawei will invest in its own development of an operating system.

Felix Ngoga, an importer of smartphones from the United Arab Emirates, said that phone sellers may consider reducing the prices of the Huawei phones they have in stock, as well as be cautious when bringing in more.

Harriet Kariuki, a Sino-African relations specialist, told the BBC that African countries should not take sides in the tech war,

“It’s not our battle, we should instead focus on what works for us,” she said.

African countries should instead come together to educate their people about what is at stake, and hopefully agree on a data protection law to protect African consumers, probably modelled around the one of the EU, Kariuki said.

“This is probably the time Africa could consider developing its own technologies relevant to its market instead of being passive consumers. I want to see African countries come together and push back against this creeping digital colonisation,” she told the BBC.

According to technology research firm IDC, Huawei is currently the fourth biggest smartphone seller in Africa, behind another Chinese company, Transsion, which makes the Tecno and Infinix brands, and Samsung.

All four brands currently use Google’s Android operating system.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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