Africa

MainOne at the heart of Africa’s colossal data centre growth

28 September 2020 | Abigail Opiah

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A critical underlying enabler of digital transformation is infrastructure and over the last few years in the West African region, there have been repetitive predictions of a future filled with explosive growth.

MDXi’s COO, Gbenga Adebiji tells Abigail Opiah that the future is here and the explosive growth that was once spoken of as an imminent occurrence, is happening now.

MDXi Data Centre, a MainOne company registered in Nigeria, is accommodating this explosive growth in the region by providing carrier-neutral data centre facilities that allow its customers to adapt to market changes in real-time.

Adebiji says that MainOne’s strategy remains to invest in infrastructure that supports building a digital ecosystem to address the deficits faced in the West African region.

“Based on these investments, organisations can digitalise using the power of our connectivity, data centre, and cloud technology investments to transform every step of the value chain,” he adds.

“In addition, robust connectivity with terrestrial and submarine cable access facilitates enhanced delivery of content, interconnection between global players and local operators, local delivery of Internet traffic and business continuity for our customers.”

In July this year, MainOne celebrated 10 years of delivering connectivity services in West Africa. Ten years ago, the company launched its operations with the commissioning of the first private submarine cable on the West Coast of Africa.

“We anticipate that the next 10 years will be filled with opportunities for further growth and market expansion across the West African sub-region. Broadband penetration rates in the region are in the 40% range and as more people migrate online, infrastructure requirements will grow,” adds Adebiji.

“We are expanding our footprint across West Africa, with additional data centre investments including the expansion of our MDXi facility in Lekki, Lagos, Nigeria ready in 2021,  construction of a new data centre facility in Appolonia City, Accra Ghana, which will be ready for service in the first quarter of 2021, and the development of a Tier III data centre in Sagamu, Ogun State, Nigeria.”

In addition to this, the company has continued to deepen its penetration into the Francophone region with its entry to Senegal and Cote D’Ivoire last year and extension to Burkina Faso earlier this year. 

Subsea offering

In December 2019, MainOne’s submarine cable in Cote d’Ivoire went live, and the project, notable for being the first commercial cable system in service to deploy spectrum sharing capabilities, offers capabilities to deepen infrastructure.

The company’s entry into the Cote d’Ivoire market facilitated infrastructure availability and accessibility that met market needs.

Adebiji reveals that the branches connecting Senegal and Cote d’Ivoire enable MainOne to deliver connectivity services to landlocked countries including Burkina Faso and Mali. The company also has its 2015 extension to Kribi, Cameroon, built in partnership with Camtel.

“These assets position us clearly as a leader in providing regional connectivity solutions for global content players and multinationals operating across West African markets,” he says.

“We intend to continue to invest in infrastructure projects that accelerate broadband access and equip businesses in doing business online.

“This extension of our subsea cable to the key Francophone countries of Senegal and Cote d’Ivoire, and integration with Nigeria and Ghana, will ultimately boost the economic and commercial development of the region.”

Covid-19 and Challenges in Africa

The company’s new data centre facility in Appolonia City, Accra, Ghana, which is currently under construction, experienced some delays as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Due to government restrictions and enforcement of complete or partial lockdowns from mid-March 2020, the launch date has now been postponed from Q4 2020 to Q1 2021.

Adebiji says that looking at Africa with wider lenses, it is clear major improvements have been made in the region especially in the last couple of years.

However, he adds that there is still a significant requirement for fibre densification to increase the capacity available on mobile networks.

“Connectivity costs remain high relative to incomes and more needs to be done to address the absence of shared infrastructure, exorbitant costs to deploy services, and multiple taxes, among others,” Adebiji explains.

“As internet adoption in Africa continues to grow despite the obstacles of cost and speed, the start-up and innovation culture continues to deepen in the continent with investments of over $1.3 billion in the sector.

“The proliferation of tech hubs across Africa has shown no signs of slowing down. These hubs are focal points for the tech communities and serve a few important roles ranging from a workspace to mentorship, to investment to incubation. The growth of these hubs continues to fuel innovation in Africa.”

Investment opportunities

With citizens and businesses increasing their digital footprint, Adebiji says it is imperative that organisations host their content and processors in commercial facilities, which are best suited to handle critical IT infrastructure, deliver secured connectivity services, and provide access to multiple networks.

“The increasing demand for cloud-based services and modular data centre solutions among enterprises, especially in SMEs and government agencies, are expected to drive the market in Africa,” he concludes.

“Large investments to date in sub-Saharan African have been in South Africa, but we are starting to see more investments across many countries and we expect that a few billion dollars will be invested in data centres in sub-Saharan Africa (excluding South Africa) in the next three to five years.”