African data centre trends - From pandemic to prosperity, driven by the edgeBy Industry Contributor 13 October 2020 | Categories: news
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By Natalya Makarochkina, Senior Vice President, Secure Power Division at Schneider Electric
Today, we are re-inventing ourselves to work from home. This year has seen many companies rush to become acclimatised to all things digital as physical distancing became a necessity. As Schneider Electric, we faced our own changes. We built a global networking team to assess needs and quickly moved our teams out of our offices and facilities. To give you a sense of the scope, in January we had 20,000 VPN licenses supporting our remote workforce. Today, we have nearly five times that.
The growth in volume and intensity in network traffic was unlike anything we had seen before. Increases like this normally happen over many months and years. During the pandemic they occurred in a matter of days. Africa was no exception, with reports of network traffic leaping by terabytes.
An outlook from the pandemic and beyond
While Africa has perhaps not been impacted as severely by Covid-19 as other continents, its data centre scene arguably lags the rest of the world in terms of development. In 2019, South Africa and Nigeria accounted for 45% of all data centre floor space on the continent. However, a 2020 report estimates that the data centre market in Africa will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 12% between 2000 and 2025, to reach a value of $3 billion. This will be driven by a growing demand for cloud-based services and modular data centres among enterprises, SMEs and government agencies. It is expected that over 70% of organisations operating in the region will shift to the cloud by 2025, led by South Africa, Kenya, Morocco, Egypt and Nigeria.
Today many African countries may lack the infrastructure to be cloud-ready. We need investment in inland and submarine connectivity to reap the full benefits of going digital. Innovations like satellite-delivered broadband services may overcome this need.
The one common denominator is the data centre. And we're seeing more investments in this space. One example is a deal in March, when emerging-markets investor Actis bought the Rack Centre in Lagos and announced plans to invest US$250m to buy and build African data centres. The reliability of data centres in the continent is also being addressed. Tier III data centres, which feature 99.9% uptime, comprise most projects in the region.
Ample opportunity for growth
Africa is perhaps the largest untapped market in the world for new technology users. The continent has a large population and great potential for economic mobilisation. There is ample opportunity and powerful motivation for innovative players to find rapid growth. Africa can benefit from a lack of legacy issues by adopting newer technologies and innovations from the outset. In this sense, Africa has an advantage.
Post pandemic, Africa can look for an even steeper growth trajectory. Key to this will be the unlocking of the continent’s knowledge economy, as well as making education more widely available. For this, Africa will be dependent on the deployment of a new generation of data centre facilities: facilities which can be deployed anywhere, any time to provide available uptime and dependable IT services to customers throughout the continent.
Prefabricated, factory engineered micro data centres, edge computing, and remote monitoring solutions are the kind of technologies which can make this happen rapidly, reliably and economically.
As this great continent takes more control of its future and builds a stronger foothold in the world economic order, we look forward to working together to fulfil this vision.
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