It started about a year ago. Chinese phone and telecoms equipment manufacturer Huawei was betting on the US market to push its devices that continue to receive a positive reception in other parts of the world. Huawei was hoping to strike a deal with US carrier AT&T, but it never came to be. Of course, the deal was aborted after the US Congress mounted pressure on the mobile operator. What is more, the US government argued that any business ties between Huawei and US telcos would jeopardize its contracts. For this reason, Huawei cannot sell its devices in the States, but interested buyers can use third-party channels to obtain them.
It should be noted that the US did not restrict the ban on its home grounds; it continued to lobby against the use of Huawei telecoms equipment for its allies, a development that has seen regions such as New Zealand and Australia cut their supply from the Chinese corporation. This animosity is based on alleged underhand tactics employed by the manufacturer, such as using backdoors to eavesdrop on foreign countries.
Locally, the Cabinet Secretary for ICT Mr Joe Mucheru has asked relevant authorities to investigate similar claims, which include allegations that Huawei, as well as ZTE, are using their telecoms equipment to spy on Africans. Mucheru tasked Africa Telecommunication Union (ATU) to lead the probe at an event where John Omo officially took over as the ATU Secretary General from Abdoulkarim Soumaila.
Huawei solely provides telecom equipment for a lot of Kenya’s carriers, which range from base station antennas and basic devices such as routers. What is more, Kenya’s diplomatic relationship with the Asian country is strong at least, and this raises the objectivity question for the probe. The study’s findings will be interesting because the manufacturer has already been pushed away from Western markets, not to mention the laxity of local ICT watchdogs in examining telecom installations.