As part of this strategy, the Chinese government is recommending its tech giants – Huawei, ZTE and Cloudwalk to enter into mobile telephony, social media and e-commerce applications in Africa, according to experts on Sino-African ties. This is part of Digital Silk Road or DSR initiative and is putting in place telecom and digital infrastructure across key African states – Nigeria, Zambia, Angola, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe. As part of the strategy ‘China-Africa Internet Development and Cooperation Forum’ was held in August with focus on building digital infrastructure, ET has learnt.
A 37,000-km-long and 180 TBPS sub-sea cable named ‘2Africa’ connecting Europe and Middle East with 16 African countries has been undertaken by China Mobile International, MTN Global Connect and Vodafone. The 4G infrastructure in Africa has largely been dependent on support provided by Huawei. It is also assisting the African Union in formulating Digital Transformation Strategy with its ‘Agenda-2063’.
Simultaneously, Chinese companies are involved in the ‘Smart City’ initiative in Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Ghana and Nigeria. China is also reportedly establishing data centres in Kenya, Djibouti, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana and Mali. E-commerce platforms associated with Alibaba are also helping African states to market their agricultural products.
“Chinese are the new colonialists in Africa who fulfil a need but like Shylock extract a pound of flesh. This is worsened by the high governance deficit. It is a win-lose situation for the two parties,” according to Pradeep Mehta, Secretary General CUTS International, which has an extensive network in Africa and vast experience in working with locals.
Sino-African digital cooperation is also being promoted through international fairs. To balance Chinese ambitions other stakeholders including India, USA, EU, Japan, Gulf states and Russia may need to expand their presence in Africa’s digital sphere.