Sawiris, who has vast telecommunications holdings, also weighed in on the drama around Chinese equipment maker Huawei.
Since 2012, Huawei, the world’s largest maker of networking equipment, has been barred from selling those products in the U.S. on the explanation of security concerns by the U.S. government. China and Huawei, meanwhile, have repeatedly denied that there’s any risk to other countries from the company’s hardware, and alleged that the American injunctions are actually due to fears of competition.
“I think there is genuine concern, and I think it’s justified,” the Egyptian billionaire told CNBC on Tuesday. “It’s actually taking the West very long to — I mean, you know, telecom was my domain — to get worried. I think they should be worried.”
Now, several other countries have taken Washington’s lead and moved toward banning Huawei products from being used in their own development of 5G tech — the next generation of ultra-high speed internet
Sawiris warned that such concerns, although justified, may eventually lead to technological silos between countries.
“I don’t know how we’ll remedy that because that will apply then to everyone: If I’m Chinese, I might not any take equipment from Motorola, for example,” Sawiris said.
Ultimately, he suggested, the only way to solve the problem would be “if all the security agencies somehow swear on the Bible that they will not be spying on each other.”
But even if such an unlikely event were to take place, he added, “who’s going to believe them?”
—CNBC’s Saheli Roy Choudhury contributed to this report.