by Michael Tobin
In 2014 when I left Telecity my first thought was to focus on the data industry in Africa, a place where the investment market was less competitive, but where the opportunities for development were boundless and growing. We finally made an acquisition that had the potential and ability to grow substantially.
At that time mature markets produced 60% of global data, whereas emerging markets like Sub-saharan Africa were just showing a small amount of data usage. But since the deregulation of South African telecoms in 2008 the market had changed considerably and the potential for expansion, buy-out, investment, and merger was now on the cards. Couple that with a surge in population, a thirst for development, a determination for self-sufficiency, and a fast-growing digital market, and you had the perfect recipe for investment.
Our instincts were right and we have seen tremendous growth in the African data centre environment over a very short period. But there are new trends coming out of the last few years growth period and new challenges must be anticipated whilst we explore new opportunities.
Africa remains a complex but exciting nation and a highly attractive target for foreign investment. It has the fastest growing economy in the world, and the youngest and most populated market with more than half of its population under the age of 24. Middle class households are set to triple by 2030, mobile phone subscriptions have grown to over 500 million users, and connectivity has been rapidly enhanced thanks to the implementation of under sea cabling.
Data centres now play a critical role in the continued development of Africa. As its cities expand, so does the demand for fast, secure and efficient business services and the need for solid e-commerce platforms. And with all this growth in use, the consumption of data services will soon outstrip the hosting infrastructure traditionally placed outside of Africa and a shift to regional and local data centres will be the next crucial step.
So when it comes to the African data centre industry, is there anything left to fear….?