Building out Africa’s data centers

Mar 02, 2016, 3:24 PM EST
Internet cafe in Ghana. (Source: oneVillage Initiative/flickr)
Internet cafe in Ghana. (Source: oneVillage Initiative/flickr)

Africa’s data center market has gotten some notable boosts in the past few weeks, most recently when Teraco, the continent's sole vendor neutral data center company, moved to expand its existing colocation facility in Isando, South Africa. Now, the location is being touted as Africa’s largest data center, thanks to this addition; it aims to address advancing issues including cloud computing, support for network providers, and managed services.

The expansion follows last month’s announcement by a Nigerian telecom of the opening of the Tier III Lekki Data Center. MainOne said that the data center targets elevating internet infrastructure to address similar issues including cloud, disaster recovery, and colocation in West Africa. 

This is good news. Infrastructure has been a historical thorn in the side of internet companies on the continent. Cable theft, economic imbalance, civil strife, and government corruption are just a few of the elements that have slowed or prevented the kind of infrastructure build-out other regions have enjoyed. The data center industry has been a slow-moving beast in Africa for those reasons and others, and has meant that foreign internet companies have not been as interested in establishing markets in Africa as internet in general is unreliable in many areas. Not to mention that lack of high-quality infrastructure until this point has led to other issues.

Latency is another problem that shouldn’t be underestimated. While basic access is often the primary concern, in places where internet is generally free-flowing, latency stymies a web-based economy’s growth. Video is slower, games are difficult to play, and other more essential services such as e-government portals are unreliable and therefore go un-adopted. In essence, an unreliable connection is damaging to most aspects of an internet culture, and the advancements made by these recent data centers aim to ameliorate this plaguing problem on the continent. 

How successful they will be is another question. That said, the data center industry in Africa has been expanding well over the last 10 years thanks to innovators who have jumped some of the aforementioned infrastructure hurdles. South Africa in particular now hosts several data centers that are capable of addressing cloud computing and other advances services, but the majority of Africa’s internet services are still hosted off the continent. There is much work left to be done to bring the web home.