Huawei exec says goal to be world's top phone maker some time off

Photo: AFP

China's Huawei Technologies will need more time to become the world's largest smartphone maker, a goal it originally aimed to achieve in the fourth quarter of this year, a senior executive said on Tuesday.

Shao Yang, chief strategy officer of Huawei Consumer Business Group, made the comment at the CES Asia technology show in Shanghai.

"We would have become the largest in the fourth quarter (of this year) but now we feel that this process may take longer," he said, without elaborating on reasons.

Huawei currently sells 500,000 to 600,000 smartphones a day, Shao said.

Huawei turns to Africa to offset US blacklist

As the US leads a drive for the West to shun Huawei over security fears, the Chinese tech giant has sought to strengthen its position in Africa, where it is already well-established.

Huawei has taken a leading role in developing next-generation 5G mobile phone networks around the world.

But it has been in turmoil since Washington charged its equipment could serve as a Trojan horse for Chinese intelligence services.

The world's second smartphone marker fiercely denies the allegations, but the US has urged countries to avoid it and several companies have distanced themselves.

They include Google, whose Android operating system runs most smartphones.

And as Washington and Beijing duke it out in an escalating trade war, nations around the world are faced with the dilemma of having to choose a side between the world's two top economies.

Russian President Vladimir Putin weighed in on Friday, slamming Washington's attempt to "unceremoniously push" Huawei out of the global market. Earlier in the week, Russia's MTS telecoms giant signed a deal with Huawei to develop a 5G network in the country.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, a guest of Putin at an economic forum in Saint Petersburg, said China was "ready to share technological inventions with all partners, in particular 5G technology".

But will the escalating fight lead to African nations having to choose between China -- the continent's top trade partner -- and the US?

"For African countries this trade war may end up a binary choice. It will be very difficult for Africa to just ignore" it, said Aly-Khan Satchu, an independent economic analyst based in Nairobi.

'Big Brother Beijing'

Huawei's presence in Africa goes far beyond selling smartphones and building mobile networks.

In South Africa, it provides training at the country's top universities, this year launching a specialised course on 5G.

Kenya's government signed a 17.5-billion-shilling ($172 million) deal with Huawei in April to build a data centre and "smart city" services.

The Chinese giant also offers a "safe city" surveillance programme.

This initiative, according to the firm's website, "can prevent crimes targeted towards the normal citizen, tourists, students, elderly persons etc before they occur".

It has been deployed in Kenya's capital Nairobi as well as Mauritius, with 4,000 "smart" surveillance video cameras set up at 2,000 sites across the Indian Ocean island nation.

Some media outlets in Mauritius have condemned the system as "digital dictatorship" from "Big Brother Beijing".

But Ghanaian Security Ministry Albert Kan-Dapaah, for one, says Huawei's video surveillance technology helps catch criminals.

"When a crime has been committed, thanks to the cameras, we work magic," Kan-Dapaah says in a promotional video for the Chinese firm.

Huawei Marine, the company's submarine cable arm, is helping to deploy a key 12,000-kilometre (7,450-mile) cable system connecting Africa to Asia.

With Huawei so deeply embedded in Africa, the continent may find it difficult to avoid becoming a collateral victim of the US-China bust-up.

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