Huawei a ‘victim’ in US, China trade war: Ramaphosa

Cyril Ramaphosa. Image c/o GCIS

President Cyril Ramaphosa on Friday rallied to the defence of China’s Huawei, saying the company’s technology will be crucial in the roll-out of 5G mobile telecommunications infrastructure in South Africa.

Speaking at the inaugural Digital Economy Summit in Midrand in Johannesburg, Ramaphosa said the “standoff” between China and the US had led to Huawei — China’s most successful technology company — “being used as a victim because of its successes”.

The president described the US’s decision to blacklist Huawei from buying technology components from some American companies as “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”.

“Telecoms companies got together and wrote me a letter saying that this tussle happening between China and US around the company called Huawei is going to hurt us, because we can’t go to 5G and only Huawei can lead us to 5G,” Ramaphosa said. He made no mention of other 5G suppliers such as Ericsson and Nokia.

“We support a company that is going to take our country and indeed the world to better technologies, and that is 5G. We cannot afford to have our economy to be held back because of this fight,” he said. “We are pleased that at the G20 Summit, China and US were able to meet and they said they will relax some of the constraints being imposed on Huawei, so that it can continue to deal with other various companies.”

Co-ordinated response

The president’s remarks come after Telkom CEO Sipho Maseko said at the end of May that a co-ordinated South African response to the Donald Trump administration’s blacklisting of Huawei was needed.

Maseko said in an interview with TechCentral at the time that he hoped to work with other industry players to present a plan to Ramaphosa about how to deal with the challenge.

Telkom is heavily exposed to Huawei. Though it has a dual-vendor strategy in its fixed-line network, where it works with both Huawei and Nokia, its mobile network has been built exclusively using Huawei telecoms gear. Vodacom, MTN and Cell C also all use Huawei gear. Rain, the newest mobile player in South Africa, has built its network using Huawei kit, too.

Sipho Maseko

Speaking at Friday’s summit, Ramaphosa also reiterated government’s intention to fast-track the allocation of broadband spectrum.

“Access to broadband and connectivity is a lever to socioeconomic inclusion and an absolute necessity,” he said. — © 2019 NewsCentral Media