MeN Namambu In the industrial zone on the edge of Kampala, the capital of Uganda, trucks loaded with steel run through the dust. Coffee bags collect in the warehouse. And at the Raxio data center, which opened this year, the local corner of the Internet is wrapped in a row of gleaming racks. Reach out and you’ll be in touch with the cloud.
Most of Africa’s data is now stored elsewhere, compressing submarine cables that often land in the French city of Marseille. From the southern tip of the continent, it can take 180 milliseconds for the message to reach and return to Europe. This is long enough to frustrate people trying to trade stocks or play games. However, the surge in investment in data centers has brought the Internet closer to users, laying the foundation for the digital revolution.
The turbulence is delayed. Africa has more Internet users than the United States, but has as much data center space as Switzerland. As more people come online, demand is skyrocketing. Since 2016, continental capacity has doubled to about 250 MW (power usage is a common indicator of capacity), according to industry-tracking XalamA analytics. This is a growth rate that will require an additional 1,200 MW by 2030.
The boom is partly driven by regulation. Twenty African countries have passed or will pass data protection legislation. In many cases, it is necessary to store certain data such as personal information in the country. Jan Hnizdo of Teraco, South Africa’s leading data center, said the liberalization of the telecommunications industry has created more space for such companies to thrive, further boosting competition.
Capital is flowing in. Teraco is building Africa’s largest standalone data center in Johannesburg with foreign funding. Actis, a private equity company, has invested $ 250 million in the industry, starting with a majority stake in the Nigerian company Luck Center. American investors have set up Raxio with a view to less fashionable markets, from Uganda to Mozambique.
These are just a few of the providers that offer “collocation” functionality and rent out space to a large number of clients. They want to attract things like banks and telephone companies. Otherwise, they have the headache of running their own center. The days when banks simply put their servers in “corner rooms” are over, says Ayotunde Coker, who quit his financial job to become the boss of the rack center.
Data centers need power, much of it. Keeping a device cool consumes about as much energy as doing it. As a result, centers are usually located in chilly locations such as Scandinavia and the Pacific Northwest of the United States. Most of Africa is hot and has a lot of power outages. “A few percent of unusables are forever,” says Guy Zibi of Xalam. To keep servers up and running, many centers use expensive, contaminated diesel generators.
Still, the potential benefits of providing better connectivity and faster Internet services in Africa outweigh the difficulties. Microsoft and Amazon have brought cloud services to the region and opened their own data center in South Africa. Huawei has helped build one for the Senegalese government. Both Google and Facebook are involved in a project to lay new cables around the African coast. These investments are a sign that the world’s largest companies are beginning to take Africa seriously, reminding us that the digital economy is based on textiles, steel and concrete because of its open promise. Will give you. ■■
This article was published in the printed Middle East and Africa section under the heading “Cloud Seeding”.
Data center is rooted in Africa
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