Alagi Yorro Jallow
Mamudu: In the information age, many African governments remain sitting ducks. The new Africa Union(AU) headquarters building in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia was constructed and fully equipped by China as a gift and gesture of friendship to Africa. The word “friendship” here is challenging to interpret in light of the Chinese debt entrapment of fragile African states.
Later, it was discovered that China had spied on Africa through the African Union, building back doors into AU’s computer systems. Apart from financing concrete and steel, China delivered and installed all pieces of ICT turnkey.
Mamudu: Chinese engineers deliberately left back doors that gave discrete access to the entire AU’s computer and communication network with the ability to copy and send AU data to China. The AU moved quickly to remedy the situation by purchasing its computer servers and encrypting its data and communications.
In the manner that Chinese tech companies are now donating P2P video conferencing hardware and software to many Presidencies and cabinet rooms across Africa. Ostensibly to help African governments communicate better during this period of Covid-19. Most of this hardware is technically “unswept” for bugs and other high-tech unconventional eavesdropping contraptions.
The enterprise package of the current controversial Zoom video conferencing platform has the option of localized hardware installation in the name of Zoom appliances. Chinese tech companies in Africa have a track record of working with their government to facilitate intelligence collection in the most clever ways. Zoom has Chinese roots and is founded on Chinese capital, in a country where the line between a private company and a government enterprise is often difficult to draw.
Mamudu: In many African countries, Chinese companies supply hardware and software solutions to sensitive installations, including military command, police communication, intelligence surveillance, and VIP close protection. In most African police, the entire police radio network is firmly the handiwork of Chinese engineering and equipment. Huawei technology is the heart that pumps the blood of Africa’s largest telecommunications.
Mamudu: It is plausible that China now listens covertly to the proceedings of many cabinet meetings and significant chatter involving strategic persons around Africa. Monitoring government deliberations, proposals, and decisions at the highest levels ensure China anticipates policy changes injurious to Beijing’s interests.
With poorly inspected Chinese hardware sitting in many government offices and installations, China could be the “fly on the wall,” listening to sensitive communications between government officials!
Moreover, this is not to say that the West has not been deploying covert technology in its surveillance effort against African governments. It is an act they have perfected long before the entry of China.
Perennial beggars have no capacity for choice. You eat what is served.
Alagi Yorro Jallow