“China planted bugs to spy on discussions at the glittering African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa that it built five years ago, it has been claimed.
The alleged hack was discovered when IT engineers investigated why the centre’s computer servers reached a peak for data activity between midnight and 2am. They found that the servers were connected to others in Shanghai, and were transferring information, according to an investigation by the French newspaper Le Monde.
Ethiopian cybersecurity experts found microphones hidden in desks and walls and at the time, last January, there were Chinese engineers in the building managing its computers.
African heads of state and AU civil servants remained unaware of the discovery, one AU official told the paper. “We have taken some steps to strengthen our cybersecurity,” he said. “We remain very exposed.”
The £141 million HQ was built and paid for by the Chinese in a symbol of the mutually beneficial friendship between the world’s youngest populations and one of its wealthiest nations.
The construction of buildings, roads, ports and railways across Africa, has helped China edge out former colonisers and western partners and gain pole position in the battle for Africa’s human capital and mineral wealth.
The revelation over the bugs came as African leaders and officials converge for the AU’s annual summit.
Kuang Weilin, China’s ambassador to the AU, called the claims “ridiculous and preposterous” and said their publication was sour grapes. “China-Africa relations have brought benefits and a lot of opportunities. Africans are happy with it. Others are not,” he said. “People in the West . . . are not used to it and they are not comfortable with this.”
Source: The Times (paywall)