In the history of China-Africa relations, 2019 may come to be known as the year of the mobile phone. It was a year when phones took on an outsized commercial and political importance. Selling its Tecno phones in Africa carried Transsion, a relatively unknown Chinese company, to an IPO north of $4 billion. Mobile phones dragged Africa into the fight between Huawei and the US government, with the president of South Africa accusing the Trump administration of cracking down on the Chinese telco out of ‘jealousy,’ leading to pushback from Washington. President Cyril Ramaphosa’s comments were backed by South Africa’s own mobile phone companies, who have expanded their business throughout the continent on the back of components and support from Huawei and other Chinese companies.
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