Will the US defence bill (on 5G rules to pressure Huawei and ZTE) affect South Africa?

According to Vanashree Govender, Huawei’s spokesperson in SA, all three telcos that have launched 5G are using Huawei in parts of their 5G networks, including the Huawei 5G CPE router.

Other companies which are also providing their technologies include the likes of Nokia, Ericsson and ZTE, as South African telcos are taking a multi-vendor approach in their 5G deployments. https://www.itweb.co.za/content/Gb3Bw7W8RGmM2k6V

Noted from an article by the The South China Morning Post: US defence bill includes 5G rules to pressure Huawei, ZTE (Jacob Fromer, 5th Deceember 2020). https://www.scmp.com/news/china/article/3112685/defence-bill-includes-5g-rules-intended-put-pressure-huawei-zte

Congress plans to require the Defence Department to reconsider sending military equipment or troops to a country if it uses Chinese 5G technology.

Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe: “I have personally told US allies that using such Chinese-owned technology will severely limit America’s ability to share vital intelligence with them,” he wrote in an essay published in The Wall Street Journal on Thursday.

The bill says that the Pentagon will have to consider “the risks to personnel, equipment, and operations” of the department posed by “at-risk” 5G vendors when making decisions about overseas deployments. It specifically names Huawei and ZTE.

It says it will apply to any “major weapon system” or additional “permanently assigned” troop deployments comprising at least the size of a battalion, which the Defence Department says can be up to about 1,000 soldiers.

It does not apply to short-term combat missions, the bill says.

Soo Kim, a former US intelligence analyst now at the Rand Corporation, said the rule could lead to difficult decisions for some US allies, like South Korea, that may find themselves “caught between” a security relationship with Washington and a trade partnership with Beijing.

“Even if the US is not planning to transfer military equipment to South Korea in the immediate time frame, should Seoul decide to include Huawei in its 5G networks, there’s risks of Chinese surveillance or ability to tap into sensitive communications,” she said.

“For Seoul, it’s come down to weighing security vs economics, which in this day and age have survival implications.” https://www.scmp.com/news/china/article/3112685/defence-bill-includes-5g-rules-intended-put-pressure-huawei-zte

US/South African Trade

The U.S. and the Southern Africa Customs Union (SACU), which includes South Africa, signed a Trade, Investment, and Development Cooperative Agreement (TIDCA) in 2008.

U.S. goods imports from South Africa totaled $7.8 billion in 2019, down 7.9% ($666 million) from 2018, but up 32.7% from 2009. 

The top import categories (2-digit HS) in 2019 were: precious metal and stone (platinum) ($3.5 billion), iron and steel ($576 million), ores, slag, and ash (ashes and residues) ($524 million), vehicles ($435 million), and machinery ($414 million).

U.S. total imports of agricultural products from South Africa totaled $389 million in 2019. Leading categories include: tree nuts ($127 million), other fresh fruit ($60 million), wine and beer ($46 million), processed fruit & vegetables ($34 million), and essential oils ($16 million).

U.S. imports of services from South Africa were an estimated $2.0 billion in 2019, 4.4% ($84 million) more than 2018, and 32.5% greater than 2009 levels.  Leading services imports from South Africa to the U.S. were in the travel, professional and management services, and transport sectors. https://tinyurl.com/y5sv3h6u

UK Telecommunications (Security) Bill 

Image: Luis Villasmil Unsplash.com

The Telecommunications (Security) Bill aims to give the government unprecedented new powers to boost the security standards of the UK’s telecoms networks and remove the threat of high risk vendors.

Examples of the cyber attacks or breaches the Telecoms (Security) Bill will help to guard the UK against include:

1) Espionage attacks on networks which happen because of the poor security of the companies that provide equipment support to telecoms providers. In 2018, the Chinese ‘APT 10’ group attack on global networks, also known as ‘Cloudhopper’, targeted a range of companies, including in aerospace and defence, telecommunications, professional services, utility sectors and many more. It was one of the most significant and widespread cyber intrusions against the UK and allies uncovered to date targeting trade secrets and economies around the world.

2) Networks being remotely disabled because of insecure connections to other networks, which has caused mobile outages in other countries. This happened in 2016 when unusual network traffic was received by Norwegian telecoms provider Telenor, causing an outage which impacted up to three million customers for 18 hours.

Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden:

We are investing billions to roll out 5G and gigabit broadband across the country, but the benefits can only be realised if we have full confidence in the security and resilience of our networks.

Telecoms watchdog Ofcom will be given stronger powers to monitor and assess operators’ security, alongside enforcing compliance with the new law. This will include carrying out technical testing, interviewing staff, and entering operators’ premises to view equipment and documents. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-telecoms-security-law-to-protect-uk-from-cyber-threats

Across Africa, however, Huawei faces controversy of a different nature. https://qz.com/africa/1822312/huaweis-surveillance-tech-in-africa-worries-activists/

The Chinese telecoms equipment giant, which reportedly built up to 70% of the continent’s 4G infrastructure, stands accused of selling technologies to potentially repressive governments as part of its “Safe City” initiative and in so doing helping to undermine human rights in these countries.

When asked if company implemented any safeguards to ensure the technology would not violate human rights, Adam Lane, the senior director of Public Affairs for Huawei’s Southern Africa division, said: “Huawei develops technology not public policy. That is the role of policy makers and legislators.”

“Huawei does not manage, use or have access to any of our systems—we only sell them to the customer and train them how to use it. It is up to individual countries to set their own policies, regulations and laws to govern how such systems are used, and for their legal systems to ensure implementation,” Lane added. https://qz.com/africa/1822312/huaweis-surveillance-tech-in-africa-worries-activists/

South Africa’s Largest Mobile Telcos Brush Aside U.S. Concerns About Huawei 5G Equipment

South African Telcos’ Views on Huawei 5G Equipment

VODACOM: “To date, there has been no public documented evidence of any security issues with Huawei network equipment. We will continue to follow government guidelines and argue that decisions on vendors should be fact and risk-based” — Vodacom South Africa spokesperson.

MTN: “Huawei is a network provider for MTN’s 5G network rollout but it is worth noting that MTN SA makes use of a number of network equipment providers and our voice and data mobile core is predominantly provided by Ericsson” — Jacqui O’Sullivan, MTN South Africa’s executive for corporate affairs.

RAIN: “Rain has no reason to believe that Huawei equipment specifically carries increased security risks compared to other vendors” — Khaya Dlanga, Rain Chief Marketing Officer


Ties between SA and Huawei remain strong

The US campaign to ban Chinese telecoms vendor Huawei is still not making much of an impact in South Africa where economic ties with China remain strong and government support for Huawei continues.

This was clear during an online event for the Huawei 2020 Seeds for the Future training program where both the Charge d’Affaires of the Chinese embassy in South Africa, Li Nan, and South Africa’s minister of Communications and Digital Technologies, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, spoke of mutual commitments to one another.

Li highlighted Huawei and China’s long history in Africa, saying that Huawei remains an important contributor to the development of the African telecommunications industry. http://www.connectingafrica.com/author.asp?section_id=761&doc_id=763413

South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa “We want 5G and we know were we can get 5G,” he said in a show of support for Huawei. https://www.timeslive.co.za/politics/2019-07-05-we-cant-be-held-back-by-us-jealousy-says-ramaphosa-on-huawei-sanctions/

China tightens export rules for sensitive tech, boosts power to retaliate against foreign sanctions

The law, first drafted in 2017 and approved in late October, bears resemblance to US Export Administration Regulations, including a list of controlled items like sensitive technology, military goods, dual-use items that have both civil and military uses, and a licence requirement for anyone who intends to export or re-export these goods.The regulation is widely viewed as a response to United States’ restrictions on Chinese technology firms like Huawei Technologies Co., which has seen access to American technology severed amid a growing tech war between the world’s two largest powers.

“The new law could pave the way for state-sanctioned export bans on rare earth metals, in what [analysts] described as a ‘no chips, no rare earths’ tactic, with reference to the US export control abuses against Chinese technology company Huawei Technologies Co.,” said a now-deleted article published by state-run tabloid the Global Times in late October, quoting several Chinese experts. https://www.scmp.com/economy/article/3111972/china-tightens-export-rules-sensitive-tech-boosts-power-retaliate-against

SA network operators are reliant on Huawei 5G products that are deemed ‘critically vulnerable’ By Heidi Swart, 7 December 2020 https://tinyurl.com/y5dve4qr

Heidi Swart is an investigative journalist who reports on surveillance and data privacy issues. This story was commissioned by the Media Policy and Democracy Project, an initiative of the University of Johannesburg’s Department of Journalism, Film and TV and Unisa’s Department of Communication Science.

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