The Kingdom of Eswatini has made a U-turn on its earlier decision to join the US “Clean Network” programme, which was initiated by the former president Donald Trump administration to limit Chinese companies from accessing sensitive sectors such as cloud computing and 5G mobile networks.
Last week, ITWeb reported that Eswatini had become the first African country to join the “Clean Network” programme.
In a joint statement last week, the countries said Eswatini’s minister of commerce, industry and trade, and acting minister of information, communications and technology, Manqoba Khumalo, and US undersecretary of state, Keith Krach, agreed on the importance of securing telecommunications infrastructure and ensuring safe technology supply chains based on internationally-accepted digital trust standards.
However, the kingdom changed its tune yesterday after Joe Biden last week took over power from Trump.
In an updated statement, Eswatini says: “The Ministry of Information, Communications and Technology representing the Eswatini government of the Kingdom of Eswatini hereby announces the withdrawal of the joint statement made by Eswatini representatives of the Ministry of Information, Communications and Technology and the US government on 15 January 2021, due to legitimacy issues surrounding the approval process of the document.
“The ministry understands the paramount importance of telecommunications infrastructure security and fact-based and standards-based approach in addressing security challenges.
“We also believe we should place equal emphasis on development and security for the best interest of the Kingdom of Eswatini.”
The term “Clean Network” was coined by Krach, who led the initiative, which included officials in the Treasury Department, the Office of the US Trade Representative, the National Security Council and the Commerce Department.
Under the “Clean Network” programme, the Trump administration had been targeting Chinese tech giants such as Huawei and ZTE, accusing them of posing national security risks because of their alleged close ties with the Chinese government.
However, the Chinese companies have frequently denied these allegations, arguing they are victims of a trade war between the US and China – the two biggest economies in the world.
In a statement last week, Huawei Southern Africa said it had not received any notice from the relevant ministries or communications regulatory agencies in Eswatini.
“We are currently contacting authorities for further information. Huawei has been operating in Africa for more than 20 years and has maintained a good record in security. Over the years, Huawei has become a trusted ICT partner to African business, government and society, contributing to connectivity and digitisation for economic and social development.
“We believe that network security is an essential technical consideration and should be based on facts and technical standards. Generalisation and politicisation of technical issues are not conducive to the healthy development of ICT, which plays a pivotal role in sustainable development.”
The company declined to comment on the latest development.