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How new local data centres will drive digital transformation in Africa

How new local data centres will drive digital transformation in Africa

By Claude Schuck

Regional manager for Africa at Veeam

Fundamental to the digital transformation process and becoming an always-on enterprise is access to data, be it mission-critical, business-critical, or other. This requirement underpins every aspect of business as companies cannot be competitive without having high-speed and reliable access to the data hosted on a server, whether it is on-premise or in a data centre.

In a world where virtualisation has become standard and businesses are doing more to understand customers using all manner of new data types, this connectivity to data takes on a whole new level of importance.

Recently, Microsoft announced that it will roll out hyperscale data centres in South Africa over the coming months. As could be expected, this generated significant excitement in not only the local market but throughout Africa. In many respects, I believe this move could be the first of many similar headlines, heralding a new age of investment in the continent as other multinational organisations follow suit with their own data centres.

A ’game-changer’ for African business

Consider for a moment the impact this could have on business across industry sectors. While significant investments have already been made across the continent in fibre and other high-speed technologies (think satellite and undersea cables), accessing a data centre in Europe or the United States for critical business data is not very efficient for an African business.

Having a company as significant as Microsoft open data centres in Africa is, I believe, a game-changer. Despite smaller service providers coming up with innovative ways of solving bandwidth issues, a multinational organisation arriving in this way can create a new market, and help smaller providers re-imagine their offerings, innovating their approach and speed of change to hardware shifts and customer requirements.

Suddenly, availability can be enhanced by having this local access to data centres. With fibre, we have already seen speeds are vastly improved across the continent. But having a nearfield Azure data centre will enhance this even further. Low latency and improved accessibility enables an organisation to deploy additional services to its operations across the continent without being concerned about the link to offshore data centres.

For example, existing speeds between South African businesses using Azure services hosted in the US are, on average, approximately 200 milliseconds. The new local data centres could see this drop to around 10 milliseconds if not faster. While smaller businesses may be less concerned by this significant advancement, CIOs and CISOs of enterprise-level businesses will, I believe, have their heads turned.

Making the cloud a more enticing offer

With these resultant increases in speed, the African market is expected to embrace a renewed push towards cloud and service provider technologies. Already, providers are integrating these virtualised environments into almost every new product feature.

This means that businesses are required to change their approach to data protection. The 2017 Veeam Availability Report shows that more companies are considering the cloud as a viable springboard to their digital agenda with software-as-a-service investment expected to increase by more than 50 percent in the next 12 months. In embracing this, companies are also able to address some of the concerns around slow economic growth and move from capital to operational expenditure models.

Getting a business up and running after an outage

According to the Availability Report, 43 percent of business leaders believe cloud providers can deliver better service levels for mission-critical data than their internal IT processes. And with the upcoming launch of the local Azure data centres, some of the concerns around getting a business back up and running quickly are addressed. But availability will remain important in this environment as more services are being offered, generating even more data.

The rate of change this brings to a service offering is significant. So, instead of providing somewhat broad solutions, a company can specialise in niche value propositions. Additionally, fibre access takes care of some of the challenges of accessing international data centres. Businesses can now almost tap directly in to the local data centres and have opportunities to disrupt operations across their sectors because of this.

Companies can now focus on true solution innovation without such significant concerns over connectivity and availability. What this now means for digital transformation on the continent is truly exciting. Now, all stakeholders across the supply chain can investigate new ways of doing business. Azure allows organisations to quickly deploy infrastructures and services to meet any business need. And, with virtual machines starting from approximately R190 per month and an SQL database from R73 per month, affordability is a key focus area. Potentially, the African data centres might make these costs even more competitive when compared to rival offerings from further afield in the world.

In this environment, always-on availability is no longer something that can only be achieved by large enterprises with big budgets. Availability is now an enabler to take advantage of the digital world. On a continent where entrepreneurship is an integral component of doing business, this means Africa can now combine true innovation with the desired technology support of local data centres.

This is certainly good news for South Africa and the continent in general as we are entering an exciting time for cloud adoption. With the number of businesses using the cloud and related services set to expand significantly in the coming year, it is encouraging news for cloud providers looking to increase their offerings with even more forward-thinking solutions.

However, while the speed gained by accessing a local data centre will improve the ability of a business to get online quickly after an attack or downtime, it is not the only consideration. Businesses still need to carefully consider critical aspects such as cost and return on investment, uptime of mission-critical data, and the quality of local support they will receive before making a purchasing decision.

About The Author

SADC Correspondent

SADC correspondents are independent contributors whose work covers regional issues of southern Africa outside the immediate Namibian ambit. Ed.

Following reverse listing, public can now acquire shareholding in Paratus Namibia


20 February 2020, Windhoek, Namibia: Paratus Namibia Holdings (PNH) was founded as Nimbus Infrastructure Limited (“Nimbus”), Namibia’s first Capital Pool Company listed on the Namibian Stock Exchange (“NSX”).

Although targeting an initial capital raising of N$300 million, Nimbus nonetheless managed to secure funding to the value of N$98 million through its CPC listing. With a mandate to invest in ICT infrastructure in sub-Sahara Africa, it concluded management agreements with financial partner Cirrus and technology partner, Paratus Telecommunications (Pty) Ltd (“Paratus Namibia”).

Paratus Namibia Managing Director, Andrew Hall

Its first investment was placed in Paratus Namibia, a fully licensed communications operator in Namibia under regulation of the Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (CRAN). Nimbus has since been able to increase its capital asset base to close to N$500 million over the past two years.

In order to streamline further investment and to avoid duplicating potential ICT projects in the market between Nimbus and Paratus Namibia, it was decided to consolidate the operations.

Publishing various circulars to shareholders, Nimbus took up a 100% shareholding stake in Paratus Namibia in 2019 and proceeded to apply to have its name changed to Paratus Namibia Holdings with a consolidated board structure to ensure streamlined operations between the capital holdings and the operational arm of the business.

This transaction was approved by the Competitions Commission as well as CRAN, following all the relevant regulatory approvals as well as the necessary requirements in terms of corporate governance structures.

Paratus Namibia has evolved as a fully comprehensive communications operator in Namibia and operates as the head office of the Paratus Group in Africa. Paratus has established a pan-African footprint with operations in six African countries, being: Angola, Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zambia.

The group has achieved many successes over the years of which more recently includes the building of the Trans-Kalahari Fibre (TKF) project, which connects from the West Africa Cable System (WACS) eastward through Namibia to Botswana and onward to Johannesburg. The TKF also extends northward through Zambia to connect to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, which made Paratus the first operator to connect the west and east coast of Africa under one Autonomous System Number (ASN).

This means that Paratus is now “exporting” internet capacity to landlocked countries such as Zambia, Botswana, the DRC with more countries to be targeted, and through its extensive African network, Paratus is well-positioned to expand the network even further into emerging ICT territories.

PNH as a fully-listed entity on the NSX, is therefore now the 100% shareholder of Paratus Namibia thereby becoming a public company. PNH is ready to invest in the future of the ICT environment in Namibia. The public is therefore invited and welcome to acquire shares in Paratus Namibia Holdings by speaking to a local stockbroker registered with the NSX. The future is bright, and the opportunities are endless.