How new proposed US restrictions on chip-making equipment will affect Africa

How new proposed US restrictions on chip-making equipment will affect Africa

(myjoyonlin)–Some senior officials in the Trump administration have agreed to new measures to restrict the global supply of chips to Huawei Technologies, at a time when the Covid-19 pandemic impacts economic growth around the world.

Under the proposed rule change, foreign companies that use U.S. chip making equipment would be required to obtain a U.S. license before supplying certain chips to Huawei.

Analysts say the proposed change of trade rules will backfire on U.S. companies as the later will develop their own supply chain. A report by the Boston Consulting Group states further escalation in U.S. export control to Huawei will result in and end the leadership of U.S. in semiconductor and will consequently decouple the US and Chinese technology industries.

Driving Force of Development

The semiconductor industry is widely recognized as a key driver and technology enabler for the whole electronics value chain. With expanding tech industry and deepening innovation culture, Africa has proved its potential to be a competitive force in technology in the future. How this unilaterally proposed change of rules by U.S. would hurt Africa’s fast growing technology industry?

In 2019, the global market for semiconductors was projected to shrink by 12% due to growing economic uncertainties from the U.S.-China trade war. This year’s COVID-19 pandemic is further shaking up the global semiconductor industry. A new IDC report says the semiconductor industry will fall by 6%.

The proposed move by some U.S. officials will create more uncertainties in the global industry of semiconductor, the centerpiece of ICTs that transform society for the better.

These technologies which enable new technologies like artificial intelligence, 5G and the Internet of Things, have been playing a critical role in Africa’s social economic development. When the COVID-19 pandemic is behind us, ICTs and digital economy will also play a crucial role in economic recovery.

Not allowed to Cook in your ownkKitchen with an American pan

If we look closely at the proposed change of rules, we can see that it aims for imposing restrictions on the use of equipment that has already been sold. This will severely undermine the basic principles of international trade. The post-sale rules change will ultimately erode trust in the global supply chain, nullifying established norms and regulations overnight. Needless to say, Africa will also be the victim.

The global semiconductor value chain has taken decades to build. Semiconductor modules are highly interdependent, and no company or country can build up a comprehensive supply chain on their own.

If these new rules were to take effect, even if merely one piece of US-origin equipment, say a screwdriver purchased from the US years ago, was used at any step in the production of chips, chipmakers outside of the US would have to seek approval from the US government.

By way of example, this is equivalent to say one could not be allowed to make face mask during the coronavirus pandemic, because a pair of American scissors are used in the mask production line. This situation will further deteriorate the already hard-hit global economy, when we are in urgent need of an open, collaborative, and stable global value chain.

Africa’s Share in Semiconductor

According to a report by Deloitte, the global semiconductor industry is set to continue its robust growth well into the next decade due to emerging technologies such as autonomous driving, artificial intelligence (AI), 5G and Internet of Things, coupled with consistent spending on R&D and competition among key players.

The global semiconductor sector market offers Africa opportunities not to be missed. With a massive growth in technology hubs across the continent-growing over 50% in the last several years, Africa needs to have a share in the global semiconductors industry, to secure its competitiveness in the future.


5G, Biotech: How conspiracy theories harm technologies with great potential
SourceNkechi Isaac

(myjoy)—Various media outlets, particularly social media, were awash with stories linking the roll-out of 5G mobile network to the novel coronavirus Covid-19) pandemic over the past weeks. These included spurious theories claiming that 5G as makes people more susceptible to the virus while some more extreme proposals even theorized it as leading to ‘Armageddon’ and the end of the world.

These claims are similar to the conspiracy theories still making the rounds on biotechnology, saying it makes people sick. The anti-GMO conspiracists are leading the crusade in demonizing a technology that has huge potential in positively impacting the human race and feeding its populace.

Expert Opinions

Experts across the globe have debunked the erroneous theories saying there is no truth in the stories making the rounds. They clarified that 5G is simply part of the electromagentic spectrum, like radio waves and visible light, and does not create viruses.

Yusuf Sambo, a researcher at the University of Glasgow who is testing 5G in Scotland, described the theories being spread on the idea of a connection between Covid-19 and 5G as “complete rubbish and biologically impossible.”

Similarly, I. Popoola, a professor of radiation physics in the University of Ibadan, Nigeria described 5G as simply a transmission at a higher frequency range than 4G.

“This feature implies transmission of greater quantum of energy (signal) per time, hence heavy data (such as images) will download faster and will be transmitted at higher resolution. Meanwhile this may require more booster antennas at closer ranges in order to travel very far because high frequency signals get attenuated faster than low frequency signals. In short 5G will be able to accommodate larger data than 4G.

“Generally, people have always displayed some fear each time a new technology arises. The fear attributed to mobile technology is that the signals (waves) are injurious to humans. Meanwhile all mobile signals most fall within microwaves (extreme end of radio waves) which are non ionizing radiations. Ionizing radiations like x-rays and gamma rays have far higher frequencies and exposure to human body may be injurious. However, they are not used for mobile telecommunication,” he said.

On modern biotechnology especially in the agricultural sector, there is a scientific consensus that the technology provides powerful tools for the sustainable development of agriculture, fisheries and forestry as well as the food industry. In taking their position, academic agencies and organizations have determined that the technology does not pose any health risk and has seen over 20 years of safe use.

5G/Biotechnology Potentials

Enhanced mobile broadband – the advent of 5G technology will enhance faster speed, lower latency, and greater capacity which could enable on-the-go, ultra-high-definition video, virtual reality, and other advanced applications.

It would also boost Internet of Things (IoT) – this will enable more connections at once (up to one million per square kilometer) at very low powerThis will tackle the explosive growth in the number of connected devices existing networks are struggling to keep pace with.

Mission-critical control – Because 5G has the potential to deliver significantly lower latency (to about one millisecond), it opens the door to use cases in healthcare, utilities, and other time-critical contexts amongst others.

On the other hand, apart from benefits of biotechnology in the agricultural sector which include developing better crops for improved yield, reduced vulnerability of crops to environmental stresses, increased nutritional qualities of food crops, improved taste, texture or appearance of food, reduced dependence on fertilizers, pesticides and other agrochemicals, biotechnology is also useful in the health sector in terms of coming up with vaccines for life threatening ailments, antibiotics and hormonal drugs.

For instance, biotechnology has been used for the development of insulin, widely used for the treatment of diabetes.

In the environment sector, biotechnology is also useful in the fight against climate change and cleaning up of degraded environment amongst others.

How These Claims Harm Potentials Available in Technologies

The peddling of conspiracy theories thrives on fear of the unknown. Feeding these fears through misinformation denies the human race the opportunity of harnessing the potentials available in such technologies for societal benefits.

These technologies are developed to improve the existing solutions on ground but when they are demonized, society invariably misses out on the opportunity of using the technologies irrespective of the potentials they hold.

Conclusion

New and emerging technologies to help the world in various sectors such as health, agriculture, information and communication technology, science and technology, environment, commerce etc are developed from time to time to add value to the world.

Given there is the tendency for people to be concerned about new technologies they are not used to it needs to be stressed that there can never be meaningful progress and development if we allow fear stop us from adopting and applying such technologies with great potentials.

If world regulatory bodies with established international standards like the WHO, FAO, USDA, UNEP et al study and approve any technology as safe, it is the responsibility of governments to come up with appropriate regulations to ensure such technologies are applied in a responsible way for the benefit of the society and humanity.

We should not deny humanity the opportunity of developing and doing things more smartly by embracing jingoists who try to mislead us all with baseless conspiracy theories. It is our moral obligation to give technology a chance.