The African Data Center And Connectivity Landscape

Africa still remains one of the world’s greatest opportunities for data centers and telecommunications

There are a number of reasons why this is the case but, compared to the analysis from many, the level of investment seems to be more of a lackluster affair – for now. I’m not going to bore you too much with piles of statistics in support of the opportunity but here are the CliffsNotes for the African opportunity:

  • Africa consists of 54 countries with a collective population exceeding 1 billion.
  • The 10 youngest nations on Earth are all on the African continent.
  • A large part of this population are people under 30 years of age and they all want to go digital.
  • As a consequence of its youthful population, Africa is predicted by the World Bank to see its overall economy (GDP) grow 11% – 15%.
  • Businesses that migrate to the cloud are growing – a trend that continues.
  • The African middle class is emerging.

The couple of points I raise don’t pertain to data centers or telecommunications at all. But consider the direct and indirect implications of these factors and how that will contribute to an increased requirement for data creation, data storage, data processing and the associated bandwidth requirements for the continent as a whole.  And where there’s data storage and data flow, you’ll find data centers.  Combine this with a young, growing population and a larger African middle class – the growth continues exponentially.

According to the latest BroadGroup report – Data Centers Africa II – published in August 2018, the top four data center markets in Africa, measured by capacity and power availability, are South Africa, Kenya, Egypt and Nigeria.  Cloud expansion, mobile data and increased international and domestic bandwidth are mentioned as driving the growth of data centers across Africa. 

As late as December 2018, an Econet subsidiary, Liquid Telecom, announced its investment of 8 billion Egyptian Pounds (USD $400M) in Egypt over the next three years. This is part of their partnership with Telecom Egypt and includes data centers and telecommunications infrastructure. An initial investment of USD $50M will be in data centers and the remainder will be in broadband and financial inclusion activities, as well as high capacity data centers.  This investment forms part of its Cape-to-Cairo network strategy.

Kenya is regarded as Africa’s eastern hub for telecommunications and data centers. The establishment of footprints in Nairobi, such as East Africa Data Center and Safaricom as well as icolo.io in Mombasa, are all testament to the demand for data centers and telecommunications infrastructure in this part of Africa.

Nigeria has seen the likes of MainOne’s MDXi data centre and Rack Centre being established in the past five years – both residing in Lagos. Before 2013 there were no such data centers in Nigeria. Rack Centre, under the stewardship of Ayotunde Coker, opened its site in 2013 and their growth has been steady ever since. Under the stewardship of MainOne’s Funke Opeke, their MDX-1 data center was commissioned in 2015 and has shown the same trend. MainOne has recently announced its plans to partner with Legrand subsidiary Minkels to expand the telecommunications company’s data center business into other parts of Nigeria, Accra in Ghana and Abidjan in Côte d’Ivoire.

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