Bringing African data back to the continent

Johannesburg, 13 Apr 2021
Read time 4min 00sec
Stephane Duproz, CEO, Africa Data Centres.
Stephane Duproz, CEO, Africa Data Centres.

The importance of an African footprint is essential for organisations that require operational excellence, low latency and diversity of connectivity.

Data centres sit at the centre of the digital economy. While certain kinds of digital infrastructure still service the internal needs of a business (and are not meant for distribution outside of a company), a lot of data generated today must be accessible.

“When content needs to be accessible, it is important that you pay a lot of attention to how that content can be accessible,” explains Stephane Duproz, Africa Data Centres’ CEO. “In Africa, there are latency issues because the data that you are trying to access, or actually create, is far away. It is probably distributed through a very limited number of routes.”

Organisations want to be close to their users, but when there is no diversity of connectivity, it becomes difficult to make data accessible in a virtual manner.

“Proximity solves this. A key priority of the digital world is diverse and optimal connectivity to distribute your data,” says Duproz.

Africa represents around 15% of the world’s population. “That population is young, mobile and attracted by technology,” adds Duproz. “But even with an appetite for technology and digital usage, the digital infrastructure in Africa – the data centre capacity – is only 1% of what it is in the world. This means that all of that data consumed, or even created, by Africans is not physically in Africa.”

Duproz’s goal is to bring African data back. But how do you convince an organisation (or a person) to keep their data local? You have to create a world-class environment, a trustworthy facility that will attract international customers to African soil. To build a state-of-the-art data centre, you have to participate in the development of the continent and its people.

“One of the reasons why all the cloud providers didn’t initially come to Africa is that they were not reassured that there were sufficiently mature data centre operators to serve them daily,” explains Duproz. “It wasn’t a necessity for them to come until there was an African leader, operating at world-class standards – similar to what they would experience in Europe or the US – which could create motivation for them to deploy and address that 15% of the world’s population.”

Digital ecosystems are orientated around the cloud and cloud in itself is a jumping point towards digital transformation. A key component of having an African network is to create something similar to what African Data Centres has done with its banking clients, which is to create a financial services ecosystem.

“Many large data centres are driven by the deployment of cloud operators, but we have hundreds of local enterprises as customers as well and we want to be able to serve them optimally,” adds Duproz.

Data centres were originally used for telecoms organisations to store their equipment and, before the rise of data centres in the early 2000s, enterprises often invested in their own, on-premises data storage solutions. But with rising IT infrastructure costs, reinvesting in a company data centre so that the equipment doesn’t become obsolete is simply not cost-effective.

“Companies in a data centre have a direct connection to cloud platforms. Low latency and high performance. When you have your company and core IT infrastructure in your premises and you want to connect to Microsoft Azure, for example, you have to do that through the Internet. You can control Internet connectivity but the performance is random. It is not controllable or guaranteed at all,” says Duproz. “But if your IT infrastructure is in a data centre, you just put a cable, and your connectivity to your cloud provider is outstanding. It’s a direct connection and that helps with latency, but also when it comes to reducing the cost of connection.”

The cost of connection circles back to proximity – deploying edge. From Cape Town to Kigali, from Lagos to Togo, big regional hubs become the centre of deployment to key international cloud operators.

“We are deploying in core African data centre markets. I believe that Africa has a lot to give the world. We want to capitalise on that. We are bringing that experience of the global standard into operating in Africa,” ends Duproz. 

See also