Eswatini makes Huawei “Clean Network” U-turn

08 March 2021

Eswatini has backed out of its plan to join the US’ anti-China “Clean Network” initiative, less than two weeks after it became the first African nation to  “exclude high-risk digital equipment suppliers”.

The country’s acting minister of information, communications and technology (ICT), Manqoba Khumalo, and then-US under-secretary of state Keith Krach on January 15 agreed “on the importance of securing telecommunications infrastructure and ensuring safe technology supply chains based on internationally accepted digital trust standards”.

However, landlocked Eswatini made a U-turn on plans to block Chinese telecoms equipment vendors such as Huawei and ZTE. 

Its ICT ministry announced the country’s withdrawal from the joint statement signed with the US “due to legitimacy issues surrounding the approval process of the document”.

“The ministry … hereby announces the withdrawal of the joint statement made by Eswatini representatives of the ministry … and the USA government on 15 January 2021,” the ministry said in a statement.

In addition, the ministry said it “understands the paramount importance of telecommunications infrastructure security and fact-based and standards-based approach in addressing security challenges”.

South African media reported that Princess Sikhanyiso Dlamini, the eldest daughter of King Mswati III, intervened to reverse the decision to back the US in its technology war with China 

Eswatini is also the only African country that has diplomatic relations with Taiwan, which China considers a breakaway province.