Chinese firms are driving the rise of AI surveillance across Africa

"… African countries are still struggling to adopt AI technologies, with the report noting that less than one-quarter of countries investing in these systems. That’s partly explained by the fact the continent is still struggling with internet connectivity.

Yet Chinese companies are quickly penetrating African markets, offering soft loans for governments to purchase their equipment and promising to set up and manage these systems. In Kenya, for instance, Huawei has helped install video systems that deployed 1,800 HD cameras and 200 HD traffic surveillance systems across Nairobi. In Zimbabwe, the Guangzhou-based developer CloudWalk announced a controversial deal in 2018 to oversee a large-scale facial recognition program in collaboration with authorities.

Most of these arrangements have come under scrutiny especially in light of how China harnesses technology for social control—particularly among ethnic Uyghur Muslims in its restive northwestern Xinjiang region.

As its operations proliferate, Huawei’s involvement in Africa has come under scrutiny in recent years. In 2018, the company denied allegations the tech infrastructure it installed at the African Union was used by China to spy on the continental body. A recent investigation by the Wall Street Journal also showed Huawei technicians allegedly helped cybersecurity forces in Uganda and Zambia intercept the communications and track down opponents. Uganda’s cash-strapped police also bought closed-circuit television cameras for $126 million from Huawei—a move opposition figures worry could be used to identify and target demonstrators and opposition figures ahead of the 2021 polls."

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