Africa’s digital transformation is sound investment
Africa is experiencing an accelerated digital transformation driven by a growing demand for connectivity. It presents a strong business case to would-be investors, especially those with data centre and cloud services ambitions.
This is according to Juanita Clark, co-founder and CEO, Digital Council Africa, who presented the opening keynote address at the ITWeb Cloud and Data Centre Summit 2023 hosted at The Forum in Bryanston on 31 October.
Clark said investors should have no doubt they are “backing the right horse” when it comes to the continent and its digital opportunity.
She said despite challenges faced by businesses, including skills shortages, economic contraction, commitment to environmental consciousness, and agility, companies are looking to up their investment in, and reliance upon, cloud and data centres to deliver services.
But this requires reliable and affordable connectivity, Clark noted, adding that fibre-optic infrastructure remains relevant and supports the foundation for rollout of 5G networks and growth of 4G coverage on the continent.
“Connectivity and coverage in rural areas in Africa remains a challenge. Satellite can also play a role in helping to reach these areas, because fibre deployment is costly – 80% of the cost of laying fibre sits in the initial physical deployment.”
Clark added that the global market is cognisant of the growth of subsea cable infrastructure deployment in Africa, which strengthens the continent’s capacity to manage and leverage internet traffic.
According to the council’s most recent Africa Digital Infrastructure market analysis report, being launched this week, international broadband grew at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 44% between 2019 and 2023.
Africa’s internet traffic between 2016 and 2022 experienced CAGR of 50%, influenced by e-commerce, content streaming services, cloud migration and support for remote work.
Countries like the Ivory Coast, Kenya, Mauritius, South Africa and Tanzania are leading in fixed access connectivity.
Clark added that Egypt, Kenya, Morocco and Nigeria are pursuing opportunities in edge data centre infrastructure, real-time data processing and regulation.
“Africa’s data centre industry shows exponential growth, with business expansion utilising AI, cloud services and other emerging technologies,” she said.
The event included discussion focused on the theme of "optimisation as a catalyst to business success", with participation from companies including Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, HCL Technologies, Ayoba and Dimension Data.
A key takeaway from the sessions is that data remains the most prized asset in business, and that continued innovation, focused on cloud service delivery and data centre infrastructure, will contribute to Africa’s economic growth and help address its acute skill shortage.