Expansion by global tech giants into Africa is driving increased investment in “green” data centres in Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa.
By Conrad Onyango
In early September, Google and Amazon Web Services executives witnessed the groundbreaking of Kenya’s first renewables-powered, or “green” data centre.
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Eco-cloud is the country’s first geothermal-powered data centre.
Two weeks later, Kenya’s President, William Ruto pitched the country as an investment destination for tech companies seeking to improve their green credentials, during the US-Kenya business roadshow in San Francisco, California.
“In San Francisco, United States, met the Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook. Kenya’s green data centre potential is one other area that Apple will look into tapping for achieving the company’s sustainability goals,” said President Ruto on X, the social platform formerly known as Twitter.
The developments point to growing pressure on multinationals to decrease their environmental footprint – and to ensure a “clean” roadmap for their expansion into Africa.
In 2022, Google announced an aggressive target with its “24/7 Carbon-Free Energy by 2030” campaign. It aims to procure clean energy, such as solar and wind, to meet its electricity needs within every grid where it operates.
“We’ve been working hard to address our carbon footprint and continue to expand our efforts, including making Google data centers some of the most energy efficient in the world,” said the search engine in its sustainability report.
Kenya, with more than 70% of its grid power renewables=based, is emerging as a popular destination for tech companies.
Growing localised data demand and the deployment of 5G networks are seen fueling increased investment in green data centres across the continent, according to research firm, Research and Markets.
“Investment is expected to grow with more funding flowing into the industry and global operators entering the market,” according to Research and Markets.
Johannesburg-based Teraco data centre released its sustainability plans in August, with a target of building a 200 megawatt (MW) utility-scale solar power facility to provide for all its energy needs, by 2035.
In the short-term, the company plans to deploy 6 MW of rooftop solar by December 2023 and reach 50% supply of its energy consumption needs with clean resources by 2027.
“These include local utility-supplied clean energy, energy generated from Teraco’s solar facilities, third-party renewable energy suppliers, wheeled arrangements, and renewable energy certificate purchases,” said the company on its website.
In December 2022, Teraco announced it was building Africa’s largest data centre, with a 38 MW power load, as hyperscale requirements continue to push demand for cloud services in Africa.
In July 2022, Nigeria’s Rack Center was awarded an “Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiencies” green building certificate by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), recognising the building’s savings in energy and water use. An expansion will see the facility switch from diesel to gas power and increase its power load from 1.5MW to 13MW.
“Rack Centre is working on various green data centre initiatives to set other benchmarks in the Africa data centre landscape,” the company said on its website.
In February, Egyptian Elsewedy Data Centers inked a Memorandum of Understanding with Emirati Gulf Data Hub to develop Africa’s largest data centre complex in Egypt.
The US$2.1 billion hub will comprise three green data centres with a total storage capacity of 192 MW. A total power load of 300 MW will be developed over the next 7 years
Research and Markets, Middle East & Africa Green Data Center Market – Industry Outlook until 2027 projects the market to more than double to a value of US$1.58 billion by 2027.
However, based on the latest Egyptian investment projections, the market may well be far larger.