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China’s Eyes Are Watching Africa Closely

In exchange for help with high-tech communication systems, China gets to install mass surveillance technology

Depending on who you talk to, the twenty-year relationship between China and several countries in the African Union has been described as everything from mutually beneficial to asymmetric and dysfunctional right down to exploitative and neo-colonialist. Recent pre-COVID-19 surveys indicate that citizens of several African nations see their country’s interaction with China as largely positive. But if some African science fiction writers are any indicator, others see a dystopian future. The current onslaught of high-tech surveillance technologies from China provides a chance to compare the two views. Recently, I have written about racial tensions between African nationals and local government in Guangzhou amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and about how the pandemic has worsened African countries’ debt crisis, particularly due to…

Aerial view of Harare

China’s AI Package for Africa Includes Mass Surveillance Technology

Africa sees development aid; China sees an expanding African database
Freedom House ranks China at 14/100 and Zimbabwe 30/100 in terms of freedoms. So it is not likely that Zimbabwe will become more free by cooperating with China to increase surveillance, even if the effort reduces crime, as hoped. Read More ›
Biometric facial recognition on smartphone. Unlock smartphone as it scans his face.

Will AI Liberate or Enslave Developing Countries?

Perhaps that depends on who gets there first with the technology
Karl D. Stephan: Zimbabwe, an African country well-known for its human-rights abuses, has received advanced Chinese AI technology from a startup company in exchange for letting the firm have access to the country’s facial-recognition database. So China is helping the government of Zimbabwe to keep tabs on its citizens as well. Read More ›