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Huawei Strengthens Its Hold on Africa Despite U.S.-Led Boycott

Even as Europeans and Asians join Trump’s ban, the Chinese company continues to prosper from the continent’s move toward 5G.

A Huawei store in Pretoria, South Africa.

A Huawei store in Pretoria, South Africa.

Photographer: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg

A year ago in June, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa got a letter that painted an alarming picture of his country’s economic prospects. The leaders of the country’s four largest telecommunications companies wrote that South Africa risked “unintended and harmful consequences” from President Trump’s plans to bar Chinese network equipment maker Huawei Technologies Co. from doing business with U.S. companies. The leaders implored Ramaphosa to undertake an “urgent intervention” to avoid damaging fallout to South Africa and the rest of continent.

Ramaphosa soon threw his weight behind the request and defended Huawei, calling it a victim of the U.S. trade war with China. “We support a company that is going to take our country, and indeed the world, to better technologies, and that is 5G,” he said at an economics summit. “We cannot afford to have our economy to be held back because of this fight.”