Increase investments in data centres, experts tell African governments

African countries have to invest heavily in connectivity and energy if they are to realise the full potential of the continent’s data market.

That was observed Wednesday by tech entrepreneurs at the two-day Capacity Africa meeting held in Kigali.

Experts observed that as the continent was embracing the ever-growing digital economy, it was becoming inevitable for countries to scale up their investment if they are to benefit from the opportunities the industry was creating.

Some of the opportunities include cloud services and data storage which will increase the availability and accessibility of data.

Moreover, to be in the position to provide these services both by private players or the public, there should be reliable high-speed connectivity, state-of-the-art data centres which require more investment.

Although there has been some noticeable private investment in these areas, it is still done on a small scale compared to Asia, Europe and America, which calls for intervention by the public sector.

Lloyd Mutetwa, Head Wholesale and Carrier Services at Telone, a Zimbabwean tech firm, said that given the demand, the private sector with its limited resources cannot even build an infrastructure to match the demand of one of the regions.

“The demand for the digital market services is huge, and when you look at the capacity of the private sector, it’s just a drop of water in the ocean, for example, the current data centres in Africa the majority are just about 6,800 square metres, that cannot serve any of the regions,” he said.

To make matters worse the centres are also grappling with other challenges especially limited and unreliable energy supply which is increasing the operation cost transferring the burden to the last consumer.

Mutetwa said that because there is only one source of energy (hydropower), which is unreliable it is forcing private companies to seek alternatives which are quite expensive and to remain in business, they have to include it in the price.

Meanwhile for swift implementation and making it less expensive, there has to be a good relationship with policymakers across the countries.

With the majority of African economies driven by small-medium enterprises, the reduction in the cost of data access and storage can generate a vast impact on their development.

Demos Kyriacou, Chief Operation Officer, Djibouti Data Centre SARL, said that if they were to make it more affordable, more investments have to go into scaling up terrestrial connectivity.

He added that increasing the internal terrestrial connectivity will enable African countries to bring down the digital divide.

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