Data Centres in Africa

AfricaICT

Economic News

15 Dec 2021
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Below is a list of data centres in Africa.

Click here to read our Focus Report on the developments and opportunities for growth within the region's data centre ecosystem, produced in partnership with the Africa Data Centres Association (ADCA) and includes in-depth case studies and viewpoints from key industry players.

MainOne - www.mainone.net

MainOne established a presence in West Africa in 2010 with its 7000-km submarine cable from Portugal to Nigeria and commissioned its first data centre (DC) in the African country in 2015. The company has developed an interconnected ecosystem of telecoms operators and internet service providers, internet exchanges, content providers and other major institutions across the region, co-located in its DCs. MainOne has increased the capacity of its DCs, which reached 5 MW in the key markets of Nigeria, Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, with services delivered to a total of 10 countries across West Africa.

The most recent addition to its portfolio is the Tier-3 Appolonia DC facility (see photo) in Accra, Ghana, which was launched in June 2021. The company also began an expansion project in Lagos, Nigeria, with the goal of increasing its 600-rack facility to over 1200 racks by 2023, and further investment has also been directed towards the expansion for its DC in Côte d’Ivoire. Through these investments, MainOne continues to deliver services via the company’s interconnection ecosystem, access to submarine cable system landings, the West African Internet Exchange in Nigeria and support for the entry of hyperscale players to the region.

PCCW Global - www.pccwglobal.com

PCCW Global is an international IT company that offers mobility, voice and data solutions to multinational enterprises, telecommunications partners, and cloud and application service providers. With a network reaching over 3000 cities in more than 160 countries across five continents, the firm built international connections between locations spanning Africa, the Americas, AsiaPacific, Europe and the Middle East. The company’s network includes more than 18 points of presence in Africa, linking the continent to the rest of the world via multiple subsea cable routes along its east and west coasts. PCCW Global provides automated and on-demand access to its global network through its network-as-a-service platform Console Connect.

The firm is looking to leverage it to help African businesses connect more easily to public cloud providers and data centres inside and outside of the region. As a consequence of the swift adoption and growing use of cloud connectivity – especially after the Covid-19 pandemic – continued expansion in the African data centre industry appears inevitable to many stakeholders in the region. There is considerable urgency to address rising data usage by building data centres, particularly with the arrival of hyperscale cloud service providers and a growing number of internet users on the continent

Databridge - www.wadatabridge.io

Databridge is a pan-African provider of data centre (DC) services that operates via telecommunications operators and cloud service providers through carrier-neutral centres. A founding member of the Africa Data Centres Association, the group is Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard-certified. It has operations in Côte d’Ivoire and Benin, and hosts all West African telecoms operators and several international carriers. Databridge constructed Côte d’Ivoire’s first Tier-3 DC facility, which is internationally certified for information security. The group works to enable professionals in electronic, credit card and debit card payments to streamline the accreditation process. This has driven demand, as well as work with companies in sectors such as telecoms, cloud, media and finance that require critical infrastructure, as well as hosting and interconnection services.

The DCs in Côte d’Ivoire and Benin are connected to four subsea cables that link Africa to other continents. The density of connectivity in West Africa allows customers to interconnect directly with the provider that matches their price and performance needs. Looking to the future, countries in West and Central Africa will develop internet and DC infrastructure quickly due to each market’s proximity, supported by the cloud.

ONIX Data Centre - www.onixdc.com

ONIX Data Centre (ONIX DC) designs, builds, manages and operates carrier-neutral co-location data centres, and aims to establish a pan-African platform to deliver high-speed and secure data centre services. The first of the company’s data centres – ONIX Accra 1 – is located in Accra, Ghana. It is the only certified Tier-4 facility in West Africa and complies with hyperscale service-level requirements. ONIX Accra 1 was acquired by African Infrastructure Investment Managers in March 2021 and will work to unlock potential in markets where demand outstrips supply. ONIX Accra 1 has multiple energy supply systems in place: solar power is used during the day, and the electrical grid is relied upon thereafter.

In compliance with the Tier-4 requirement of 99.995% uptime, back-up generators are on site in the event of a power outage. As a result, ONIX Accra 1 ensures its uptime satisfies its Tier-4 designation, enabling cloud computing services to operate without interruption. While power supply has been a challenge for data centres in the region, Ghana’s electrical grid is more reliable than those in neighbouring countries. “Accra is an attractive location for data centres due to political stability and low sovereign risk. There are also a number of subsea cable landing stations in Accra to ensure that the facility is accessible to organisations worldwide,” Michael Nahon, CEO of ONIX DC, told OBG.

IXAfrica - ixafrica.co.ke

IXAfrica Data Centre, based in Nairobi, Kenya, offers a large and technologically advanced digital habitat for cloud, collocation, and connectivity in East Africa. In March 2021, the company broke ground on what will be a 42.5-MW DC complex. The first phase includes three DCs for a total of 18.9 MW of capacity, with the first of these – at 4.5 MW – to be ready in early 2022. 

ST Digital - www.st.digital

Headquartered in Cameroon and with offices in Côte d’Ivoire, Congo, Togo, Gabon and Benin, ST Digital helps organisations meet digital transformation targets with cloud technology and professional integration, training and consulting services delivered through its Tier-3 data centre and partnerships with cloud providers such as Microsoft and Oracle. Despite unreliable energy sources, high electricity costs, data sovereignty issues and a lack of local regulation, ST Digital installed the first carrier-neutral, Tier-3 data centre in Cameroon in 2020. Costs associated with operating a data centre in Africa are higher than those in Europe, and expanding innovative solutions in the mass market comes with greater risk. “The regulatory framework for data centres is not yet mature in Africa,” Anthony Same, CEO of ST Digital, told OBG. “As a result, the adoption of technologies has been sluggish, which has delayed the disruption of traditional business models in Africa.

This is coming at a time when internet access is seen as a basic right, a factor that brings into question the sovereignty of internet users’ personal data.” While there are around 80 data centres across Africa, France – with a population some 15 times smaller than that of Africa – operates 200 data centres. To stymie the growing digital divide, Same notes that a collaborative ecosystem of equity funds, national IT agencies, strong regulators, telecoms operators and global big tech players is needed.

Raxio - www.raxiogroup.com

Founded in 2018 Raxio Group focuses exclusively on the African continent, where its platform of carrier-neutral, co-location Tier-3 data centres (DCs) offer digital infrastructure solutions in Uganda, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Mozambique. Raxio is creating a network of interconnected DCs across the continent and expects to be operating 10 facilities by 2023. Since the company’s foundation, the market dynamics in Africa have shifted. While the DC industry used to be inadequately supplied from a financing perspective, there is now an increasing number of international firms eager to invest in African digital infrastructure. Meanwhile, media outlets are keen to report on DC-related developments and the underserved needs of the continent. However, operating in Africa is not without challenges. Some of the most important factors to consider when analysing potential new markets in the DC space are connectivity and power, according to Robert Mullins, CEO of Raxio.

“Many markets in Africa are known for having power challenges and this needs to be accounted for in our operational and business models,” Mullins told OBG. “We need to factor in off-grid time, and we are continuously exploring innovative and green solutions to supplement our power needs.” While being a first-mover in digital infrastructure projects is an attractive proposition for investors, it is ultimately their long-term prospects to serve the continent’s infrastructure needs that play a crucial role in convincing investors of their returns. “The most interesting phase comes towards the end of development,” Mullins said. “When a DC nears completion there is a real buzz around the project, with commercial interest coming from sectors not previously considered. This has helped to convince those interested in the industry about the longer-term potential.”

N+One - www.nplusone.ma

N+One, founded in 2008, is the first carrier-neutral data centre (DC) provider in Morocco. While it was initially challenging to convince customers about the economic advantages and efficiency gains associated with externalising data operations, the development of the local ICT sector and a focus on cybersecurity underscored the importance of DCs. Headquartered in Casablanca, N+One offers Tier3 facilities featuring high-speed, fibre-optic connectivity; cooling infrastructure; uninterrupted power systems; and on-site back-up power generation. In addition to rolling out more solutions to drive the kingdom’s digital transformation, the company launched operations in Senegal as a starting point for its development into sub-Saharan Africa.

The importance of carrier-neutral DCs became more widely understood as Morocco’s digital infrastructure developed. This not only helped foster better digital services, but also helped shape the country’s digital transformation. All of this put the kingdom in a good position to respond to some of the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, which stimulated new digital behaviours that are likely to become longer-term habits. Indeed, the country was well placed to swiftly ramp up its DC capabilities: the industry is expanding and players have the capacity to host more data. At the same time, hyperscale providers are entering the market.

Africa Data Centres - www.africadatacentres.com

Africa Data Centres (ADC) offers an extensive network of interconnected, carrier- and cloud-neutral data centre facilities which bring rapid and secure data centre services and interconnections across the African continent. ADC operates facilities in several South African cities, including a Tier-4 DC in Johannesburg and a 5.5-MW DC in Cape Town. ADC also maintains the largest DC in Kenya – a 7.5-MW facility in Nairobi – and is building a 10-MW DC in Nigeria.

Teraco - www.teraco.co.za

Teraco, which is backed by international investment companies Berkshire Partners and Permira, was the first provider to offer carrier-neutral services in sub-Saharan Africa, and has consolidated its leadership by investing in hyperscale carrier- and cloud-neutral co-location DCs, several of which are located in Johannesburg (which has a capacity of approximately 55 MW) and serve as the on-ramp for AWS,

Workonline Communications - www.workonline.africa

Founded in 2006, Workonline Communications provides wholesale connectivity services across sub-Saharan Africa. The company has operations in East, Southern and West Africa, and is set to expand into Central Africa, actively helping to close the digital divide. It is one of the largest IP transit networks on the continent, while also providing ethernet transport, co-location and remote peering services to major internet exchanges. IP transit is a fundamental component of the region’s digital ecosystem. Internet service providers (ISPs) rely on their upstream provider to route traffic to its destination as efficiently as possible. The upstream provider is also responsible for providing contentheavy networks with access to the users in a market as efficiently as possible.

An IP transit network operating at an optimal level results in a significantly better experience for all internet users in that market. “Our expansion in Africa is founded on a thorough understanding of the macroeconomics of a chosen market, including becoming familiar with the local regulatory framework and requirements, and ensuring the availability of a carrier-neutral data centre, internet exchange points and an active ISP community,” Benjamin Deveaux, head of business development at Workonline Communications, told OBG.

Rack Centre - www.rack-centre.com

Rack Centre was established in 2012 and was the first carrier-neutral commercial data centre (DC) to obtain a Tier-3 Certification of Constructed Facility in Africa. Its clients include telecoms carriers, internet service providers (ISPs), and foreign and local firms. The DC has direct links to all five subsea cables that serve the Atlantic coast of the continent, and is supported by a diverse ecosystem of carriers, eyeball networks and ISPs. The company is expanding its DC capacity from 1.5 MW to 14.5 MW through the addition of hyperscale, large-footprint and retail data halls. Rack Centre is the largest carrier-neutral DC in West Africa, and the expansion will consolidate this position. Africa hosts just 1% of global DC capacity, yet accounts for 17% of the global population and 4% of global GDP. Data consumption is projected to grow significantly due to the continent’s young, digital-literate population.

The expansion of DCs such as Rack Centre will be key to meeting data capacity demand. “Nigeria has over 40m micro-, small and medium-sized enterprises, over 150m internet users, and growing broadband penetration. These are strong fundamentals that will fuel the growth of DCs and digital infrastructure,” Ayotunde Coker, CEO of Rack Centre, told OBG. However, sufficient and sustainable power, and efficient power utilisation are crucial. “The cost of power is key, and addressing this issue in Africa is a challenge,” Coker added. “Investing in DCs is capital intensive but access to funds is difficult to come by locally. Diversified power sources are crucial for operational and risk management.” The company has its own power infrastructure, using gas as a primary source and diesel as a backup, and leverages economies of scale to lower unit costs. Indeed, Rack Centre is prioritising innovation to promote energy efficiency and environmental sustainability

Galaxy Backbone - www.galaxybackbone.com.ng

Galaxy Backbone, incorporated in 2006, is a public enterprise of the federal government of Nigeria. Headquartered in the capital city of Abuja, the company provides digital infrastructure and shared provider services to federal ministries, departments and agencies. Despite being tied to the public sector, Galaxy operates as a limited company. It specialises in hosting, connectivity, cloud computing data centres (DCs) and consulting services. Galaxy Backbone has DCs in Abuja, Enugu and Lagos, and is building another Tier-4 facility in the north of the country. Its DCs operate as an ecosystem for co-location and cloud services. In addition, Galaxy Backbone has laid fibre-optic networks in 13 states of the country, with fibre optics currently being laid in 21 additional states.

The company has taken advantage of increasing digitalisation rates since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic to develop and extend their services to new customers. This growth has translated into improved digital services for Nigerian citizens, notably with the national e-identity project that links an individual’s identification card to his or her SIM card. As the market with the largest population in Africa, it will be important for Nigeria to adhere to international standards to attract foreign investment and exposure. Until the market matures, these certifications will be key to facilitating further DC development.

CBRE - www.cbre.com

CBRE’s data centre (DC) solutions division was established in 2015 as a standalone service catering to growing demand. Today it is the largest DC outsource service provider, active in more than 45 countries through some 3000 technical roles. CBRE manages over 400 DCs with 99.99968% uptime – a key metric for the industry – and has a turnover of $1bn. The company’s base in Africa was launched in the 1990s, with DC activity supporting the likes of IBM. In 2018 CBRE announced a partnership with Excellerate – a services firm based in South Africa – to expand its footprint across the Middle East and Africa, offering the required DC capability to support digital needs. There are similar trends between the DC boom currently under way in Africa and the evolution of the DC industry in the UK at the turn of the century, with one example being the tough competition for talent. In the UK in the 2000s newcomers to the market were able to easily move DC resources by offering attractive packages.

CBRE regards talent as one of the fundamental drivers of wider economic growth in Africa, and sees the skills piece as the most significant aspect of building a successful DC industry on the continent. Bridging the skills gap globally is important, but as the DC boom takes place in Africa, there will likely be challenges related to overcoming local skills shortages: mirroring how the situation played out in developed markets some 20 years ago. In the future the company hopes to promote more apprenticeships and training programmes to respond to the needs of this rapidly growing industry. The required amount of experienced staff will likely be unavailable to operate and maintain a DC in five years, as demand for DC construction is forecast to outstrip the supply of talent to manage them, so there must be a focus on meeting the skills requirements of the future, today. CBRE believes there are more effective ways to train apprentices in the current system and manage them in a way that nurtures their strengths.

Click here to download our Focus Report on Data Centres in Africa

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