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Kenya gets $1bn digital support from Microsoft, G42

By , Africa editor
Kenya , 23 May 2024
President William Ruto.
President William Ruto.

Microsoft and G42, an Abu Dhabi-based AI company, launched a $1 billion digital investment package for Kenya, yesterday.

The effort is part of an agreement with Kenya's Ministry of Information, Communication and the Digital Economy.

One of Kenya's investment goals in the deal is a green data centre being developed by G42 and its partners to run a new Microsoft Azure East Africa Cloud Region.

The data centre was first revealed in March, when Kenya's EcoCloud and the UAE's G42 inked a Memorandum of Understanding to construct the first geothermal-powered data centre.

According to the firms, the project aims to capitalise on Kenya's significant untapped geothermal potential by building an initial 100MW facility that will be scaled up over time.

The data centre will be operational within 24 months after the signing of the formal agreements.

According to Microsoft, this new cloud region will give companies access to scalable, secure, high-speed cloud and AI services. It hopes this will accelerate cloud adoption and digital transformation in Kenya and East Africa.

Microsoft announced yesterday that the initiative will include four additional pillars, which will be pursued with local partners:

  • local-language AI model development and research;
  • an East Africa Innovation Lab with broad AI digital skills training;
  • international and local connectivity investments; and
  • collaboration with the Kenyan government to support safe and secure cloud services across East Africa.

The technology company said that a letter of intent (LOI) to formalise the agreement will be signed tomorrow (Friday) as part of Kenyan President William Ruto's state visit to the United States, the first by a sitting African head of state in nearly two decades.

It added that the LOI will be signed by Microsoft, G42 and Kenya’s Ministry of Information, Communications and the Digital Economy. The agreement was crafted with the assistance of the governments of the United States and the United Arab Emirates.

Ruto said: “This partnership is bigger than technology itself. It is about coming together of three countries with a common vision of a nation empowered by technology, where every citizen has the opportunity to thrive in the global digital landscape. It’s about building a future where Kenya flourishes as a digital leader.”

He added: “In the spirit of mutual growth and shared prosperity, this LOI is a stepping stone toward a brighter; more connected and digitally empowered future for the USA, Kenya and the UAE. It embodies our collective aspiration to bridge the digital divide, accelerate technological innovation, and pave the way for a thriving digital economy that benefits the entire African continent and beyond.”

“This partnership between two companies and three countries highlights a real opportunity to bring digital technology to the Global South in a safe and secure manner,” said Brad Smith, vice chair and president of Microsoft. “This represents the single largest and broadest digital investment in Kenya’s history and reflects our confidence in the country, the government, its people and the future of East Africa.”

Peng Xiao, group chief executive officer of G42, said: “This initiative will empower the Kenyan government and communities with robust, secure cloud services and AI capabilities, providing the foundation for a thriving digital economy across the region.”

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