Chinese technology giants Huawei and Zhongxing Telecommunications Equipment Corporation (ZTE) have established their presence on the continent and become the foundation of Africa’s telecom infrastructure.
And they are not slowing down, despite the US placing restrictions on investment by the two firms, and roping in its allies in Europe to force them out of the market.
The US has accused the firms of allowing the Chinese government to use their devices to mine data and spy on Americans. Yet despite these accusations, African countries have developed a relationship with the two firms, that has seen them win multibillion dollar technology contracts, some of which touch on sensitive security installations.
“The Chinese telecommunications giants Huawei and ZTE built most of Africa’s telecoms infrastructure,” a McKinsey report on Chinese investment in Africa published in June last year notes.
From Tanzania to Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana and Zambia, the two equipment manufacturers, with the backing of Beijing, have established more than 50 third-generation (3G) telecoms networks in more than 36 African countries. They have also built national fibre-optic communications networks and e-government networks in more than 30 countries.
For African governments, getting a technology upgrade to 4G, with talks of 5G in the offing, seems to overshadow the data breach and security concerns that dog the two technology giants in other markets.
Already, the US, Australia and Japan have banned the firms from building their next generation 5G Internet networks. The US has been lobbying other countries including Germany and Italy to block the firms’ hardware from being used in building the network.
“We have seen no evidence that Huawei could use its equipment to spy for Beijing. For the US to push for a ban, we need concrete proof,” the head of Germany’s Federal Office for Information Security Arne Schoenbohm said.
At a July meeting in Canada, intelligence chiefs from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the US agreed to do their best to contain the global growth of Huawei.
Part of their security fear is the ease with which the Chinese Communist Party could possibly order Chinese telecommunication companies to participate in “national intelligence work” and in turn provide access to critical infrastructure. Already, the Pentagon has indicated that it stopped selling Huawei phones and modems on its military bases because they “may pose an unacceptable risk.”
But even as Washington pressurises its allies to isolate Huawei, in Africa, the firm and its Chinese competitors are welcome, and are rolling out key technologies and modernising the continent’s infrastructure.
Huawei is currently holding trials for 5G rollout with Africa’s largest telecommunication firm MTN, Vodacom, and with Safaricom, the region’s largest telco.
“Actions speaks louder than words,” Huawei’s executive director, Ryan Ding, said last week. “So far, we have signed 22 commercial contracts for 5G, and are working with over 50 carriers on 5G commercial tests.”
Huawei is China’s largest telecom equipment manufacturer and network solutions provider and the third-largest in the world, while state-owned ZTE comes second in the country, and is the fifth largest in the world. For both firms, African revenue accounts for almost a fifth of overall income, showing how deep- rooted they have become on the continent.
In 2017, Europe, Middle East and Africa were Huawei’s biggest regions for sales outside China, accounting for 27 per cent or $23.76 billion of total sales, the firm’s annual report shows. The continent’s largest economy Nigeria for example, saw China’s Exim Bank lend it $328 million to improve its telecoms infrastructure with Huawei equipment, brushing off concerns from US.
“We do not expect African governments to bow to US pressure to keep Chinese telecoms players out of any potential 5G rollouts or 4G network upgrades. The African operators will be keen to slash costs for 5G, and one area is to adopt cost-effective Chinese telecoms equipment,” Kenny Liew of Fitch Solutions told the Financial Times.
The two firms have invested heavily in the continent’s backbone infrastructure technology, where they have helped roll out data and phone connectivity for network providers. Over the past three years, Africa has commissioned more than 40 fibre projects valued at $13 billion, with more than half of them being undertaken by the two Chinses firms.
“In 2017, we partnered with carriers including Safaricom in Kenya, Pakistan Telecommunication Company Ltd, the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company, and Omantel in the Middle East to implement value driven network deployment, and jointly build premium broadband networks. This has allowed these carriers to set themselves apart from the competition and achieve business success,” Huawei said in its 2017 financial statement.
Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard
Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.
However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
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Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
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Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.
Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard
President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
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Drastic life changes affecting mental health
Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.
Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.
Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.
The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.
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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.
In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020. It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.
A study by Dr. Habil Otanga, a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.
The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.
KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.
Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.
As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.
“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”
Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.
“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.
Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.
“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”
Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.
“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.
Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.
Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.
She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.
Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.
“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added
Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.
“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and also engage in reading that would help expand their knowledge.