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Kenya to Resist Pressures from US-China Tension

  • Kenya will resist pressures from the US to force its major telecommunications network, Safaricom to break its contract with China’s Huawei in the launch of the country’s fifth-generation (5G) network.
  • The US has been pressuring its European allies and others not to use Huawei, one of Safaricom’s network vendors, citing security concerns.
  • Kenya faces a dilemma as it has has a very good relationship with the US and China.

Kenya has disclosed that it will resist pressures from the US to force its major telecommunications network Safaricom to break its contract with China’s Huawei in the rollout of the country’s fifth-generation ( 5G) network.

Joe Mucheru, Cabinet Secretary for ICT,  said that Kenya will not delay the 5 G deployment in the midst of tensions between the US and China over the participation of 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,” Mr Mucheru said during a digital police occurrence book launch in Nairobi.

“Again, the government does not deal with vendors. It’s the service providers who will decide who to work with”.

The US has been persuading its European allies and others not to use Huawei, one of Safaricom ‘s network, due to security concerns.

Britain announced last month that it is reversing the decision to allow Huawei to participate in its 5G network due to pressure from the US.

It imposed a ban on the Chinese company’s equipment from its fifth-generation networks by the end of 2027.

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Safaricom said it would launch Kenya’s first 5G mobile Internet services this year, targeting major urban centres, making it the first provider to provide commercial and superfast services in the country.

The firm had completed testing and trials for the upgraded network as it seeks to capitalise on burgeoning mobile Internet use in the country.

The network has been built by Huawei, which was accused by Washington of working at the discretion of Beijing.

The US says that if the Chinese firm controls the production of the world’s fifth-generation internet, global security and personal data would be at risk.

Huawei opposes the U.S. campaign and called on Washington to provide more evidence to show the company’s supposed threats.

Tensions between the world’s two largest economies have risen on a number of fronts in recent weeks, including coronavirus, trade, and Beijing’s clampdown in Hong Kong.


Kenya is caught in a conflict between its allies

Huawei ‘s participation in Safaricom’s 5G network could arise in talks on a US-Kenya free-trade agreement, analysts said.

“We will have conditions just like what we have seen the likes of the UK being pressured to block supplies from countries that the US does not consider to be friendly,” said James Shikwati, the director of Inter Region Economic Network (IREN)—a policy think-tank.

“So if the United Kingdom has been arm-twisted to start replacing Huawei, we could see some pressure coming to Kenya.”

On July 8, Kenya and the US officially opened talks on a bilateral trade deal that the two economies hope will serve as a blueprint for future deals across Africa.

Kenya aims to reach an agreement with Washington before the expiry of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which allows sub-Saharan African countries to export thousands of goods to the US without tariffs or quotas for 20 years.

Two-way trade between the US and Kenya amounted to Sh117 billion in 2019, up 4.9 per cent from 2018. For Safaricom, the 5G service is a key part of Kenya’s plans to further expand its data sector to offset slower growth in voice calls revenue.

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