Data Center Africa

Published: June 2016
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Africa is an emerging data center market with contrasting differences are also becoming evident between more digitally advanced countries, and all others on the continent. Originally cast as a mobile story, there are signs that the transition to digitalising economies is encouraging the development of carrier neutral facilities but the journey will be challenging given the relatively low base from which demand in most countries is starting.

In this new report, covering 16 country markets, research has identified 74 players with 91 data centers.

The report usefully segments country markets into three categories:

  • Early Stage Pioneer typically with less than 2k m2 in total in each country market;
  • Developing markets (2k-6k m2) and
  • Carrier/Larger Scale with >6.1k m2.

The report reviews data center activity in each market and identifies the challenges which act variously as growth inhibitors, and assesses the opportunities for demand and future growth.

Reviewing subsea connectivity, power and energy resources and rise of off-grid solutions, enterprise outsourcing demand, emerging digital parks, fiber availability and investment.

Research for the report suggests that administrations tend to focus on local industry when conceiving digital parks but need to consider how to encourage international investment and integrate data centers into infrastructure strategies as another source of potential demand creation.

Policy indeed represents some stumbling blocks to data center investment ranging from building permissions, bureaucratic delay and costs particularly for overseas players. Faster to deploy solutions - ‘data center in a box’ – are increasingly favoured, with integral cooling and lower operational costs and increasingly represent favoured medium term solutions.

Although a host of problematic factors ranging from heat to dust exist on the continent, new players are emerging and building high specification facilities. Nevertheless for investors, pioneering digital eco-systems in new African markets does require a more pioneering mindset.

The research also suggests clear evidence of change, with the emergence of internet exchanges, high quality facilities already cited and gradual local hosting of content. The consumption of data services will soon outstrip the hosting infrastructure traditionally placed outside of Africa and a shift to regional and local data centers will be the next crucial step.

Overall the report provides an assessment of an emergent series of country markets, each at different speeds and characterised by sets of strengths and weaknesses that with more distinct investment in fiber, low latency satellite broadband and sustained cable upgrades, will eventually deliver an exciting and potentially significantly sized market opportunity.