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Africa: Why data centres are crucial for the continent’s sovereignty

By Quentin Velluet, Arthur Beaubois-Jude
Posted on Tuesday, 30 November 2021 10:58

Africa still does not have enough data centres, which are essential infrastructure as they ensure the continent’s digital sovereignty. Which countries are doing well and which ones are lagging behind? We've got this visual overview.

What would happen if Ireland or the Netherlands, two countries that host data for many African countries, one day decided to cut off access to their data centres? Several million Africans, and hundreds of thousands of businesses, would lose their valuable data overnight. Although it seems extreme, this scenario is entirely plausible, given that the continent’s governments have fallen behind when it comes to deploying their digital infrastructures, either due to a lack of investment or political will.

In the age of the cloud and all-encompassing digitalisation, the location of the infrastructures that store and process millions of gigabytes of data is a strategic issue.

These storage centres – or data centres – concentrate the digital information produced by private or public organisations. Sometimes stored internally on one or two servers (large hard disks with a storage capacity of several gigabytes), it can also be relocated to a data centre that is several hundred square metres in size, ultra-secure and contains thousands of servers.

Acceleration

By hosting their data outside their borders, African countries are ceding some of their political, economic and digital sovereignty. Fortunately, the trend towards repatriating this information seems to be gaining momentum, as the data centre industry is expanding on the continent and international players are stepping up investment to improve Africa’s connectivity.

Over the past three years, several hundred million dollars have been raised by players, such as Africa Data Centres, Raxio Group, Rack Centre and MainOne, groups with African or foreign capital, but which are dedicated solely to the continent. The objective is to either support their projects that are dedicated to building infrastructure from scratch, or take over existing infrastructure.

Although things seem to be moving quickly in Morocco, Senegal, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire and the DRC, this development is not uniform. Which countries are the most advanced and which ones are lagging behind? What are African data centres capable of and who owns them?

We have it all mapped out for you here:

 

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