Huawei crisis: South African government won’t ‘discriminate’

Business Insider SA
Huawei smarphone line president Kevin Ho  (James d
Huawei smarphone line president Kevin Ho (James de Villiers, Business Insider South Africa)
  • The South African government said it won’t “discriminate” against Huawei after the US state effectively forced Google to revoke its relationship with the Chinese company.
  • The US deems Huawei a threat to its security.
  • For more, go to Business Insider SA.

The South African government does not intend to change its behaviour towards Huawei, Sidwell Medupe, department of trade and industry spokesperson told Business Insider South Africa.

Huawei is the biggest seller of smartphones in South Africa, after Samsung.

The US government this weekend blacklisted the Chinese firm due to security concerns, which forced Alphabet, Google's parent company, to suspend its corporate relationship with Huawei

Also read: Huawei is being locked out of Android – here’s what that means for South African users

The suspensions effectively halts the transfer of hardware and software between the two companies, including a partnership on the Android smartphone operating system.

Medupe said the country follows international trade rules in its treatment of Huawei. 

“We do not discriminate against any international companies; we treat foreign companies like local companies,” Medupe told Business Insider South Africa. “Samsung, Nokia, Huawei, and other telecom equipment companies are treated the same.”

Also read: Huawei just overtook Apple to become the second-largest smartphone maker

The Trump presidency believes Huawei's smartphones and network equipment can be used by China to spy on Americans - allegations the company has repeatedly denied.

Huawei in South Africa

South Africa is an important and growing market for Huawei. The company said earlier this year that it hoped to outsell Samsung to become number one in the local market. 

Last year, the local smartphone market grew by more than 7.2%, with 13.5 million new smartphones sold. This was far stronger than worldwide smartphone sales growth, which only expanded by 1.1%, according to the IT research firm Gartner.

Huawei is also heavily involved in the rollout of 5G technology in South Africa, partnering with most network operators.

Vodacom - South Africa’s largest operator - told Business Insider that it is currently “reviewing the situation” and “assessing the possible implications”.

Next days will be critical

Google revoked Huawei's licence to the Google Mobile Suite (GMS), which includes applications such as YouTube, Gmail, Maps and Google search.

The initial implications of that are likely to be small, said Dominic White, chief technical officer at cybersecurity consultancy SensePost. Android is an open source platform, and as such, Huawei can still access the operating system and security updates.

But to work fully, GMS apps need to be built into a phone from the start rather than be installed afterwards, White said, and functionality on future phones will be hit.

"Given that existing devices look like they will continue working, you're probably safe buying one now," says White. "The question will be whether their next models will have as much access. I'd certainly wait a day or two until we get clarity.”

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