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U.S.-China Technology “Cold War”: Exploring Africa’s Options

In 2019, Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter, and Jack Ma, co-founder and former executive chairman of Alibaba, visited several African countries such as Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, and Ethiopia, where they met and interacted with African tech-Savvy youths.  The two ‘Jacks’ represent two different paradigms of technology, and their visits to Africa were symbolic of the geopolitical rivalry between the U.S. and China over technology.

In recent times, tensions between the U.S. and China over technology has spawned techno-nationalism in which nations exhibit mercantilist behavior towards tech innovation. In August 2020, the Trump administration launched the Clean Network Initiative program to safeguard “American citizens’ privacy and companies’ most sensitive information from aggressive intrusions by malign actors such as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).” In return, the Chinese government launched its own global data security initiative aimed at countering Trump’s Clean Network initiative. Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General, has cautioned that the US-China tech divide could cause more havoc than the Cold War. For its part, the Eurasia Group considers U.S.-China decoupling in the technology orbit as the single most impactful development for globalization since the collapse of the Soviet Union. According to Deutsche Bank, the geopolitical cost of U.S.-China tech rivalry in the ICT sector is around $250 billion per year.  

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