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Uneven datacentre distribution widens digital gap in Africa

Africa , 08 Feb 2021

COVID-19 has accelerated the roll out of- and investment in digital services across Africa. However, the lack of infrastructure means these services remain inaccessible for many on the continent.

According to a recent white paper by Xalam Analytics and Africa Data Centre Association, Growing Africa’s Data Center Ecosystem, the distribution of datacentres in Africa is uneven, which impacts on digital inclusion.

Data from the report shows that 30 Tier III and above multi-tenant facilities have come online across the continent since 2016.

“But this capacity is still unevenly distributed. More than two-thirds of Africa’s capacity was in South Africa in 2020; a handful of countries account for a considerable share of the region’s datacentres. By Xalam Analytics’ estimates, nearly half of Sub-Saharan Africa’s economic output and broadband connections are served by only 10% of existing datacentre supply,” the report stated.

It added that out of 80 metropolitan areas with a population of more than 1 million people, only a third have at lease one built-for-purpose datacentre facility at Tier III standard.

“(The) African continent is very scarce and the population is scattered over a relatively large area. Most of the African continent has very little infrastructure (fibre optics network, cooling/water, and power,” said Ohad Harlev, CEO of data storage company Lyteloop.

He cited the lack of relevant IT equipment, IT professionals and infrastructure setbacks as the main regions for the slow pace of datacentre development.

“Some solutions to the above issues are modular datacenters and pre-built datacenters, though these still encounter a lack of talent issues and infrastructure issues,” Harlev added.

An excerpt from the Xalam Analytics white paper reads: “Expanding the breadth of Africa’s datacentre capacity is fundamental to reducing latency, optimising intra-African traffic flows and slashing operating costs in the broader African economic supply chain.”

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