Africa has 15% of the world’s population and only 1% of its data centres, but the continent is catching up quickly to the rest of the world.
This is according to Stephane Duproz, CEO of Africa Data Centres, who was speaking during a webinar hosted by Africa Data Centres in partnership with ITWeb.
“At last, the African data centre market is exploding, and Africa is catching up. Until recently, Africa did not have the infrastructure and decades of experience in operating data centres. That is what we have brought. What we at Africa Data Centres have done is to invest heavily to offer Africa pan-African, carrier neutral facilities,” he said.
Duproz noted that while cables were essential for telecoms and data flows, the IT systems and the components of the digital world are physically on servers. “These servers need to be housed in a very secure place, with reliable power and climate control, and must be enabled to interconnect within digital ecosystems. Data centres enable this, and this is why they are at the heart of economic growth in Africa. Without them, developing rich and self-sufficient ICT ecosystems cannot happen.”
Said Duproz: “These facilities are the lifeblood of every business and the foundation of the internet itself, with thousands of networks and connections meeting their data centres providing wide ranging digital ecosystems for cloud, content, security, storage and financial services.”
Data centre capacity in Africa is currently around 200 MW, he said, but Xalam Analytics estimates that the need in the visible future will be five times that, growing to around 1000 MW.
“Building data centres is the one way that Africa can meet its growing requirements for storage and networking. More modern colocation facilities will not only meet the continent’s needs but will also help to connect the various regions to the broader global data economy, which in turn will drive economic and social development. We are already seeing investments in data centre capacity in billions of dollars, and we ourselves are moving to over a billion dollars in investment across the continent,” he said.
A key driver, according to Duproz, was the deployment of cloud compute platforms and soaring demand for cloud services, following what he described as a ‘magic moment’ when international cloud operators decided to put their capacity and platforms on African soil at a time when Africa was ready and waiting for the cloud to come. “The arrival of hyperscalers on the continent completely changed the landscape and transformed the data centre industry. And they are meeting success because African companies show extraordinary digital dynamism, and they were ready to provide the next generation of services to customers,” he said.
Duproz said the Covid-19 pandemic had accelerated the need for data centre capacity because companies now have to work in a much more decentralised manner, and because digital tools have become much more critical for business.
“When the pandemic started, companies quickly realised that management and collaboration would be simpler if data and the digital tools everyone was using were in one place and accessible to all the connectivity providers employees were using. And carrier neutral data centres enable this, so we are seeing a lot of those digital tools being switched progressively from server rooms to our data centres. CIOs have also realised that critical digital tools have to be secured and resilient, and that data centres such as ours are optimised and better run than in-house data centres run by organisations for whom it is not their core business,” he said.
“Beyond a job, I have a personal mission to digitise Africa and enable Africans to operate independently in a way that is more secure,” Duproz said. “I have the best job on earth: I am leading a fantastic team and we are proud and excited to be creating the state of the art infrastructure that will allow for African data to come back to Africa, and enable Africa to finally show the world how creative, dynamic and innovative the continent can be.”