Editor’s note: This article was written by Eren Ersozoglu and originally published on Grey Dynamics. 

Since 2012, the U.S. has accused Huawei of being a potential tool for surveillance abroad. While on the surface Huawei is not state-owned, Chinese legislation requires companies to assist in national intelligence work. And this should be viewed in the context of Chinese human rights violations: China is the worst abuser of internet freedoms for the fourth year in a row (Freedom on the Net 2019).

Huawei is the world’s largest telecommunications company with a reported $121 billion in revenue last year alone. It has established its Safe City Initiative surveillance system, which uses facial recognition and artificial intelligence software, in 700 cities and regions across the globe. In Africa 12 countries have integrated into the surveillance system. It should be mentioned that the Safe City Initiative is also operating in Xinjiang to target Uyghur Muslims and minorities, of which 1.5 million are in internment camps.

The U.S. has been attempting, unsuccessfully, to use diplomatic leverage to dissuade Africa from further integration into Huawei’s network. Huawei has already launched its 5G network in South Africa and Kenya’s biggest telecoms operator Safaricom is set to award a contract to Huawei for the 5G network. Huawei Marine is also helping to deploy a key 12,000km cable system connecting Africa to Asia. The network can be tied to an extension of China’s Belt and Road project.

Huawei dominates the African telecommunications market. It is building 70 percent of Africa’s 4G infrastructure. Yet, the system may become a tool for authoritarianism in the continent as accusations of Huawei employees helping Ugandan intelligence to spy on political opponents demonstrate.