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Behind the Scenes: Leaked Documents Expose Huawei’s Tactics in Somali Telecom Market

Ali Bajwa

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Mogadisho , Somalia : The telecom landscape in Somalia has undergone a significant shift with the  rise of Huawei, a global telecommunications giant. However, concerns about market fairness,  regulatory compliance, and national security have surfaced in response to Huawei’s dominant  position in the country’s telecom sector. This article aims to explore the economic and security  implications of Huawei’s controversial operations in Somalia, especially in light of the company  redirecting its operations to Africa after encountering bans in the UK and the US. 

Economic Implications 

Huawei currently holds a staggering 80% share in the Somali telecom equipment market, raising  eyebrows regarding potential unethical or illegal practices in its agreements with local operators. The  concentration of power has sparked questions about market fairness, hindering healthy competition  and limiting opportunities for new entrants. Large business contracts and loans have become tools of  influence, potentially distorting competition and impeding innovation. This economic dominance  may obstruct Somalia’s economic development and hinder technological progress. 

Vendor Lock-In and Consumer Impact 

Huawei’s strategy has resulted in vendor lock-in, restricting operators from switching to competitors  and stifling healthy competition. This has led to higher consumer prices and limited choices for the  Somali population, casting doubts on the sustainability of such market dynamics. 

Technical Challenges and Security Risks: Huawei’s failure to comply with Somali telecom regulations  and its supply of equipment not intended for ITU Region 1 have raised serious technical issues,  including frequency interference. These challenges extend beyond Somalia, impacting neighboring  countries and highlighting potential security risks and cross-border telecom disruptions.

Manipulative Tactics and Government Engagement: Leaked documents suggest Huawei’s use of  manipulative tactics, selectively designating certain operators as agents while excluding others.  Despite efforts by the Somali government to engage with Huawei and address these concerns,  

success has proven elusive, revealing challenges in government oversight and regulation within the  telecom sector. 

Shift of Operations to Africa 

Adding complexity to the situation is Huawei’s strategic shift of operations to Africa following bans in  the UK and the US. This move introduces new dimensions to the economic and security concerns  surrounding the company’s activities in Somalia. 

Data Security and Lack of Oversight 

A significant cause for concern is the alleged trade of subscribers’ personal data by Huawei, with  accusations that the company sells this information to the highest bidder. The absence of a physical  presence in Somalia limits the government’s ability to engage in direct oversight, emphasizing the  potential risks associated with unchecked dominance. 

Hidden Ownership and Fair Competition 

Recently disclosed secret documents reveal Huawei’s hidden majority ownership (51%) in Hormuud  Telecom, a major player in Somalia’s telecom market. This has raised concerns over transparency and  fair competition, especially considering Huawei’s dual role of controlling Hormuud Telecom while  supplying equipment to other companies in Somalia. 

Finally, Huawei’s overwhelming presence in Somalia’s telecom sector, coupled with questionable  business practices, regulatory non-compliance, and manipulative tactics, presents serious economic  and security concerns. The situation calls for heightened scrutiny and decisive action from Somali  authorities to ensure market fairness, regulatory compliance, and national security in the evolving  telecom landscape, especially in light of Huawei’s shifted operations to Africa post-bans in the UK  and the US.

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