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Data Centres in Africa

Readers will recall that one of the major policy issues recently has been the storage and flow of data in Africa. Some “data localisation” regulations exist (specifically for financial data, for example in Rwanda and SA). The Department of Communications and Digital Technology (DCDT) issued a draft National Cloud and Data Policy last year which called for overall rules and for the sharing of data. That proposal has now been overtaken by the government’s new Data Storage Policy. SA hosts 5 of the major cloud servers, which would have been threatened by strict data localisation rules, whereas few other such mega servers exist on the continent, but things are changing.

Now the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN, the non-profit corporation that coordinates the domain name systems), announced that it will set up 2 new Root Server (IMRS) clusters in Kenya. ICANN also plans a 3rd IMRS cluster in Africa in the future. These will increase Internet speeds and make it harder for hackers to bring down websites. The new data centre, which will have multiple servers with a high bandwidth to deal with spikes in traffic, will offer the continent faster access and better protection from cyberattacks.

Meanwhile, the growing demand for internet services is spurring large-scale construction of both surface and undersea cables in Africa as technology companies pump in more investment funds to replace old lines and put-up new ones. A new ultra-high-capacity submarine fibre optic cable that landed in Mombasa on 29 March is among the latest additions to the continent’s internet cable capacity. The Hong Kong-based PEACE (Pakistan and East Africa Connecting Europe) cable will cost $425m and is expected to offer a more stable connection between Africa, Europe, and Asia.

The cable is 15,000-kilometre long and offers high speeds of up to 200 Gbps per single wavelength with a total capacity of 192 Tbps which will help lower costs to users. The project is funded by a public-private partnership, including Telkom Kenya, Orange, Telecom Egypt, Cybernet, HMN Tech, and PCCW Global. Its lifespan is forecast to last 25 years. This is Kenya’s 6th undersea cable, with a capacity of 16 terabytes per second, which is 5 times the capacity of the earlier cables (Djibouti Africa Region Express 1 (DARE), SEACOM, East African Marine Cable System (TEAMS), East African Submarine Cable System( EASsy) and Lion

Talking of which, Amazon Web Services (AWS) has announced plans to launch an AWS Local Zone in Kenya. The new AWS Local Zone(s) in Kenya will join 16 existing AWS Local Zones across the United States and an additional 32 AWS Local Zones planned to launch in 26 countries around the world starting in 2022. While in Nigeria, Airtel has unveiled its state-of-the-art Tier 3 data centre for commercial use.


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