Ren Zhengfei, founder and CEO of Huawei, recently met with a contingent of media from across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), including KSA, to share his thoughts on the region’s bold digital transformation efforts—and Huawei ‘s plans for supporting local partners to scale digital services to more people, homes, and organizations than ever before.
The global executive acknowledged the Arab world’s long and profound history, particularly its mastery of mathematics, geometry, and engineering design. Zhengfei also recognized the foresight of Saudi Arabia’s leadership in building a knowledge economy and investing its oil wealth in the research of technology for non-oil sectors.
“The Silk Road established by our ancestors connected the cultures of China, Central Asia, and the Middle East, and we have great admiration for it. We should continue in the spirit of the Silk Road today with 5G and high-speed rail. This will drive the economic growth of the entire region,” commented Zhengfei. “The way forward is to use the money earned from oil to improve education, enhance innovation in science and technology, and invest in digital technologies.”
Zhengfei also believes that the Middle East will become one of the world’s highest grounds for 5G, and that 5G will be the infrastructure of a rejuvenated civilization. In fact, Middle East countries including Saudi Arabia have been in the first wave of 5G commercial launches, standing at the global forefront.
Addressing the expansion of 5G in particular, Zhengfei noted that these cutting-edge technologies will help countries to bridge the digital divide and contribute to cultural and educational development. Zhengfei referenced how Saudi Arabia is making strong investments in education already, such as its development of Princess Nourah Bint Abdulrahman University—the world's largest university for women—amongst others.
“The key to rejuvenating any country or nation lies in education. Today, knowledge is our oil, our forests, and our coal,” the executive stated. “The advancement of 5G and AI can create more wealth than ever for a society. But in the new era, when ICT becomes a main driver of productivity, resources must be used to provide support for people and to give them training.”
Zhengfei was also candid in addressing the ICT industry’s cybersecurity challenges and Huawei’s evolving relationship with American technology companies. “When countries regard physical resources as wealth, geographical boundaries are very important. However, the wealth of digital technologies is global and transcends boundaries,” said Zhengfei.
He confirmed that Huawei is currently in discussions with countries around the world about signing a "no backdoor" agreement to safeguard data on its networks. For things like 5G base stations, transmission networks, and core networks, Zhengfei also noted that Huawei doesn't rely on US parts or components at all, so won't be affected by US sanctions on that front.
Today Saudi Arabia remains a strong market for Huawei globally. In addition to supporting local telecom carriers with their 5G plans, Huawei is also active in developing AI applications with local enterprises, and support larger initiatives such as a recent cooperation with the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah in the field of information and communication technology.
“Our main direction is to move forward with new technology and explore what's next. The exploration itself is a contribution to society,” believes Zhengfei.
The executive’s latest interviews come shortly after Huawei announced its business results for the third quarter of 2019. During the first three quarters of this year, Huawei global revenues increase by 24.4% year-on-year. Huawei has maintained its focus on ICT infrastructure and smart devices in its efforts to help build a fully connected, intelligent world.
By the end of Q3 2019, more than 700 cities, 228 Fortune Global 500 companies, and 58 Fortune Global 100 companies had selected Huawei as their partner for digital transformation.