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Africa’s Potential as a Cloud Solutions Provider

Foreword by Dr Ayotunde Coker, CEO of Open Access Data Centres, a WIOCC Group Company.

“At the present time, the African continent has only 1% of the global data centre footprint; 0.5% of Cloud according to Xalam Analytics. We can either bemoan the fact we are so far behind, or we can celebrate and act on the immense potential for growth in this continent, which is now starting to be realised.

Demand for on-continent cloud services is increasing, which is raising the demand for hyperscale facilities. At Open Access Data Centres, we provide an enabling infrastructure that underpins the cloud infrastructure. South Africa is the largest of the five Africa biggest market points, which also include Nigeria, Kenya, Egypt and Morocco.

Sister company WIOCC is an open-access infrastructure provider, having invested strategically across the continent in metro fibre, high-capacity national backhaul and hyperscale international subsea cable assets on Africa’s east and west seaboards, allowing Africa to be significantly better connected to the world. Improvements in undersea and terrestrial cable capacity and availability are driving an increasing shift to cloud.

Most of the cloud currently consumed in Africa is delivered from facilities in Europe or the USA, but data sovereignty legislation is increasingly requiring local data storage based on cloud footprints. Whilst this favours the larger countries, a pan-African data sovereignty rule would potentially offer greater benefits to all. With latency a key issue given the size of Africa, a pan-African data sovereignty framework would improve this, encouraging investment in additional locations and smaller countries.

Cloud democratises access to technology and information, and is a major enabler for businesses of all sizes, especially MSMEs, which are the biggest drivers of economies. Africa has 18% of the global population and only 3-4% of global GDP; the prosperity gap! It has only 1% of global data centre infrastructure; the digital gap! Closing the digital infrastructure gap is a key catalyst for addressing the prosperity gap. The International Telecoms Union and World Bank note that a 10% increase in broadband penetration can create up to 2.5 percent increase in GDP.

On a global level, Africa has huge potential for capacity substitution; moving cloud workloads from European to African hyperscale data centres. Demand for this is increasing due to the worldwide demand for AI. AI uses significantly more data centre compute space and huge processing capacity is needed. In Europe, it is much more difficult to build new data centre capacity due to increasing energy and planning constraints. Transferring some data processing operations from Europe to sites elsewhere will free up capacity for AI to work optimally in Europe. Africa can play a huge role in this ‘capacity substitution’.

At WIOCC Group, we have been working to facilitate Africa’s digital transformation for 15 years, deploying hyperscale infrastructure on an open-access connectivity basis and more recently carrier neutral, open access colocation data centres, extending our ability to support the needs of our clients in Africa. Our AI-ready core data centres can handle AI workload as well as AI substitution workload, and are integrated with an network of edge data centres capable of extending high-performance Cloud services to more remote areas. Another key enabler for Africa’s cloud is peering points, where organisations come together locally to exchange traffic. We are seeing more and more of these being put into place across the continent, optimising both performance and costs.

Africa needs to show the world that we have the right regulatory frameworks in place, and that we can provide a low risk environment for cloud hosting. Policies must enable digital infrastructure penetration, with a focus on pan-Africa sovereignty and personal data protection. Africa already has the leverage of scale. If we capitalise on our potential, we can leverage greater prosperity.”