February 09, 2022

Kenya’s data centres: Essential infrastructure for expanding our digital economy

By Tejpal Bedi, SEACOM Managing Director and Regional Head of Sales for the ENEA region

Although most of us don’t usually spend much time thinking about data centres, it’s critical to reflect on their role in transforming our digital landscape.

The backbone of modern technology

Today’s data centres are more complex than ever and have been designed to support multiple on-site and cloud activities, especially when it comes to business IT. Our need for them is certainly growing as more people use the Internet to participate in the digital economy. Global traffic surged by more than 40% in 2020 because of increased video streaming, teleconferencing, online gaming, and social networking.

The number of global Internet users has doubled since 2010, and with that increase comes the need for data centres that can not only cater for current requirements, but also for future loads that require even more intricate computing capabilities.

Enabling business growth in Africa

Countries such as Kenya and Uganda have seen increased investment from multinational operators. We see this with data centre operator Raxio launching its first carrier-neutral centre in Kampala in 2021. Other examples include PAIX building a data centre in Nairobi’s financial district, and Asteroid International expanding its Kenyan Internet exchange service from Mombasa to Nairobi.

Combined with the increasing investment from hyperscalers such as AWS, Google, and Meta, the result of this is more value for end users and enterprises in the East African region, with better speeds, better pricing, and a blossoming digital economy.

The impact of Kenya’s data centres

In Kenya, data centres and their surrounding technology infrastructure could change how people and businesses engage with global networks and systems.

Considered the gateway to the East Africa region, Kenya plays an important geographical and logistical role in the rollout of Internet connectivity and services in Africa. Our country enjoys the presence of several local facility operators that have grown and expanded – in part thanks to acquisitions or partnerships with global operators – while also offering end-to-end solutions for companies of all sizes. Investments in broadband undersea cables and landing stations enable accessibility, connecting the continent to global cloud networks and serving as the bedrock on which Kenya can embrace cutting-edge digital solutions.

According to the Kenya Data Centre Investment Analysis Report, our data centre market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 12.36% between 2021 and 2026. Kenya serves as one of the continent’s primary data centre hubs. Nairobi is a favourable location for data centre development, with Mombasa becoming more popular with service providers as well.

Innovation, energy, and the future

Despite this potential, Africa’s hosting capacity remains minimal. The continent’s capacity is only a fraction of some of the world’s largest data centre metros, such as London or Amsterdam. However, new facility construction has accelerated as markets consider hosting and cloud service opportunities. Reliable data centre infrastructure, as offered and maintained by reputable service providers, means users in Nairobi can utilise AI, blockchain, and other digital resources with the same level of security and ease as other users in the overseas metros.

This infrastructure, and its energy requirements, also raises environmental considerations that are being addressed. Growing demand for data centres continues to be mostly offset by ongoing efficiency improvements in servers, switches, and other infrastructure. Combined with mobile networks switching from 2G and 3G technologies to more efficient 4G and 5G ones, data centres are becoming increasingly energy efficient.

From fledgling start-ups to large corporates, we can't afford to underestimate the importance of data centres when it comes to unlocking digital opportunities.

With data centres offering so much to the Kenyan economy and individual businesses, it’s a good time for companies to prioritise finding reliable ICT partners and service providers of data hosting facilities. Contact us to find out how we can drive your business forward.