Mar 22
3:30 pm - 4:30 pm
A Technological Fix: The Adoption of Chinese Digital Surveillance Products in Africa


Date: Tuesday, 21 March, 2023
Time: 3:30pm – 4:30pm (Hong Kong Time) via Zoom
Speaker: Bulelani Jili (Meta Research PhD Fellow, Harvard University; Visiting Fellow, Law and Technology Centre, HKU Faculty of Law)


Abstract: When examining the proliferation of Chinese surveillance systems and cyber capabilities in Africa, research disproportionally draws attention to the motivations and ambitions of the supplier. This perspective, while it highlights Chinese diplomatic ambitions and corporate opportunities, ignores local features that drive the adoption of Chinese surveillance tools. This paper discusses African demand factors through an examination of the primary case study of Kenya and touches on examples from South Africa and Uganda. By drawing attention to local efforts to procure and collaborate with Chinese firms to establish public security systems, this work seeks to address the motivations behind the adoption of Chinese information and communication technology (ICT) systems, which include AI surveillance tools and other biometric identification systems. It principally illustrates the consequences of the proliferation of digital surveillance tools for local and global communities. The paper emphasizes African volition — recognizing its salience — as a way to go beyond myopic representations of Africa as a passive recipient and partner in Africa-China relations.


About the speaker: Bulelani Jili is a Meta Research Ph.D. Fellow at Harvard University. His research interests include Africa-China relations; Cybersecurity; ICT development; African Political Economy; Internet Policy; Chinese Business Law; Law and Development; and Privacy Law. He is also a Visiting Fellow at Yale Law School; a Fellow at the Atlantic Council; Cybersecurity Fellow at the Belfer Center; and is conducting research with the China, Law, Development project at Oxford University.


All are welcome!  Please register as soon as possible at  


This event will be conducted via Zoom. Prior registration is required. The link to the webinar will be provided upon successful registration.


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