Cameroon has opened a command center to monitor the Huawei Technologies surveillance cameras it has installed in Yaounde. Currently, Cameroon's police force reports that there are 2,000 surveillance installed in the country with 7,000 more to be installed in the near future.

The surveillance command center and cameras are a partnership between Cameroonian telecommunications company  Camtel and China's Huawei, which is the technical partner.

"Efforts have so far been geared towards modernity, where safety of the citizens remains the focal point pf police action. By opting the use of the video surveillance systems throughout the national territory, the forces of law and order intend to combat acts of banditry, terrorism and other crimes that undermine social peace. Thus, the video surveillance is a reliable solution."

Invasion of privacy

The command center was inaugurated with Joseph Dion Ngute, Cameroon's Prime Minister, in attendance.

As we have witnessed with the recently announced installation of Huawei's facial recognition cameras in Uganda, the number one reason given for the use of Huawei's surveillance cameras is that they will help with safety and security in the country.

However, little mention is made of how privacy will be handled given that they will be located in public spaces. Another concern is that of how the video footage will be stored and accessed given the rumours circulating that Huawei staff are reluctant to train Cameroonians on how to use the technology. This becomes even more important when you consider that Huawei is the only technology company, as a partner with Camtel, that installs and manages Cameroon's fiber optic network backbone.

China's colonialism of Africa?

A Camtel employee, who apparently wanted to remain anonymous, is quoted as stating that "They [Huawei] are reluctant to transfer technology to local staff because they want to remain there."

What is interesting is that not only does CamTel have very close ties with Huawei as witnessed by the new surveillance solution and their continuing partnership on Camtel's National Broadband Network (NBN) project, the NBN is also financed by Exim Bank of China. This continues the debate in recent years on whether or not China uses "debt diplomacy" to become the new colonizer of African countries, taking over from Western countries.

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