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Equinix invests $160 million in South Africa data centre, following Google, AWS

The data centre company hopes to expand services to the roughly 48 million people currently using the internet in South Africa

Equinix is set to enter the South African data centre market through a $160 million investment in a Johannesburg development.

The move will expand the company’s presence in Africa, after it spent $320 million on MainOne in April 2022, a West African data centre company operating in Nigeria, Ghana, and Ivory Coast. This was its first expansion into the continent.

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The new data centre, predicted to open in mid 2024, is a 4 MW data centre called JN1. It will contain over 690 cabinets and over 20,000 square feet of colocation space. The company is also planning two more development stages that will see the site expand to 20 MW with over 3,450 cabinets and over 100,000 square feet of colocation space.

South Africa represents the largest data centre market on the continent and is expected to see investments of £3.2 billion by 2027, a compound annual growth rate of 11.15% according to Arizton.

Equinix also cited Statista data, which said that the total population of South Africa using the internet was nearly 80%, around 48 million people. This is predicted to grow to 90% by 2027, with the country expected to have one of the highest penetrations of mobile and internet users in Africa.

Through this expansion, Equinix is aiming to enter one of the largest and most digitally developed nations on the continent, which also has good connectivity thanks to its network of submarine cables, it said.

"We entered the African continent earlier this year with the acquisition of MainOne, the leading West African data centre and connectivity solutions provider with presence in Nigeria, Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire," said Eugene Bergen, president of EMEA at Equinix. "This investment will give both South African businesses the opportunity to expand internationally and global businesses to expand into South Africa.”

The company is hoping to use sustainable and reliable sources of energy for the new data centre. It’s currently exploring this, with the new facility also containing features like cooling with outside air economisation using minimal water. Equinix said this will help it limit its carbon footprint and maintain energy efficient operations.

"Equinix has shown interest in the African marketplace with the acquisition of MainOne at the end of 2021, giving them presence in  Nigeria, Ghana and Cote d’Ivorie," Tiny Haynes, principle edge computing infrastructure and services analyst for S&P Global, told IT Pro. "The obvious gap in coverage has been in South Africa, compounded by the fact that both AWS and Microsoft Azure have had presence there for a few years. Todays announcement looks to fill that hole in their geographic presence, although it is not expected to be operational until 2024."

South Africa has been noticed by a number of cloud giants recently, with Google establishing a Google Cloud region in the country in October 2022. The investment was expected to contribute over $2.1 billion to the country’s GDP and create over 40,000 jobs by 2030, according to research commissioned by the tech giant.

However, Google lagged behind its rivals in entering the South African market. Microsoft opened two cloud regions in Cape Town and Johannesburg in 2019 while AWS opened a region in Cape Town in 2020.

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