Africa’s Data Centers Promising Digital Revolution

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This year, we saw a boom in the demand for data center construction in Latin America. But as we enter the year’s close, let’s look at another burgeoning market in Africa.

A continent that is still relatively in its infancy regarding digital infrastructure transformation, Africa is set to become the next hotspot for a growing technological revolution spearheaded by a data center capacity buildout.

Africa's Digital Revolution

The Technological Status Quo In Africa

Currently, much of Africa’s data is stored in Europe. Deep sea cables run this data from Africa to Europe, often entering through France. This storage of data in foreign countries has prompted many African nations to reassess data regulations, especially when considering the storage of sensitive information.

Furthermore, there has been a massive increase in data consumption across Africa in the last couple of years. In 2019, an estimated 525 million people in Africa accessed the internet. This was far greater than that in the United States, Latin America, and the Middle East combined.

The African Technological Boom

Three key metrics drive the digital infrastructure demand in Africa

Data Sovereignty through Regulation

Data sovereignty refers to how the stored data is subject to the laws and governance structures from where it’s collected. As more African governments pass data protection laws, this drives the requirements for sensitive data to be stored in-country.

Liberalization of the Telecoms Industry

Open and carrier-neutral telecom markets drive down network costs, which attracts more users. While this will vary across countries, it has pushed the increase in data consumption and increase competition on the continent.

Network Latency

Everyone has experienced that dreaded loading circle while waiting for an application to load. Edge computing, or ensuring the servers are close to the users, increases network performance and improves latency, leading to better customer experience, security, and functionality.

Investing in Africa

A study in Senegal found that 3G internet coverage comes with a 14% increase in consumption and a 10% decrease in poverty. The relationship between internet access, human welfare, and economic potential cannot be forgotten when investing in the continent.

Hyperscalers, Microsoft and Amazon have brought their cloud services to South Africa. Chinese telecom giant Huawei helped build a data center for the Senegalese government. Both Google and Facebook have invested in new subsea cable technology, thereby broadening the available points of presence along the west coast of Africa. Data center powerhouse Equinix has acquired MainOne and its MDXi subsidiary in a $320 million deal, thus leading the way in the West African data center market with a presence in Nigeria, Ghana, and Côte d’Ivoire. Teraco, which has recently been acquired by another major player in data center capacity, Digital Realty, is building Africa’s largest data center in South Africa. And the list goes on.