(Bloomberg) -- Africa’s biggest wireless carrier, MTN Group Ltd., has opened a research lab with Huawei Technologies Co. in Johannesburg, deepening ties with the Chinese company and potentially accelerating the roll out of new technologies on the continent.

The facility’s ten employees will focus on applications for artificial intelligence, data analytics, cloud computing, fintech and other technologies, MTN’s chief technology and innovation officer Mazen Mroue said in an interview. 

“Before we start deploying the new tech in one of our markets, we are able to test the efficiency and value of it in our own lab,” Mroue said. “Usually the tests would be done in a vendor’s lab, and you will have to go with their outcome - but with our latest initiative, we can test all technologies ourselves, with whichever vendors, European or non-European.”

Africa has a young, fast-growing and tech-savvy population that relies on mobile phones for access to everything from banking to health care. It’s also been slower to roll out some of the newest technologies, such as 5G capabilities and artificial intelligence applications, due to the costly nature of building out these networks, and shortage of software developers working on the continent.

South Africa, where MTN is based, has said it won’t succumb to international pressure to stop using Hauwei’s equipment in its technologies. The country’s ambassador to the five-nation BRICS bloc said in August that the country had faced “tremendous pressure” from the US to stop using Huawei’s network, which it planned to resist. 

The equipment supplier has offered South Africans thousands of training and technology transfer opportunities over the years, Anil Sooklal said at the time. China is the African nation’s largest trading partner.

Read More: South Africa Spurns US Pressure to Stop Using China’s Huawei

Huawei, which has become a central focus in the US’s ongoing trade war with China, has been banned from providing equipment for networks, particularly more advanced 5G equipment, in the US, while some European countries have taken steps to strip the technology from their networks. Germany is weighing additional measures to take Chinese-made equipment out of their networks and Spain is taking steps to bar the company from receiving state aid.

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