US funds Sh3.7bn data hub to speed up Internet access


Cassava Technologies Group President & CEO Hardy Pemhiwa during the official groundbreaking of an additional data centre facility by Africa Data Centres, a business of Cassava Technologies, on January 19, 2023. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

The US government has funded the expansion of a Sh3.7 billion data centre in Nairobi, boosting Kenya's profile as a regional technology hub.

Africa Data Centres (ADC) broke ground on the project last week at its data centre facility in Sameer Business Park in a $30 million (Sh3.7 billion) plan fully funded by the US.

The extension will see the existing facility on the adjacent piece of land expanded to an extra 15 megawatts (MW) of IT load (a measure of the amount of computational work that a computer system performs) up from the existing capacity of 5MW.

Also read: Kenya to host one of Africa's two giant data hubs

A data centre is a facility that centralises an organisation’s shared IT operations and equipment for the purposes of storing, processing and disseminating data and applications.

Enhancing the capacity of the Nairobi-based facility – one of the only three in Africa besides Nigeria’s and South Africa’s – will mean faster access to requested web resources for local users as it will work to reduce latency levels (the delay before a transfer of data begins following an instruction for its transfer).

The expansion of the new site is expected to be completed in the first half of next year.

“We believe that data centres will play a significant role in digital transformation and economic growth on our continent. Without them, the push towards a digital economy in Africa will be missing a key pillar,” stated the Group President and CEO of Cassava Technologies Hardy.

“Our decision to increase our investment in our data centres in Kenya is in recognition of the position the country now occupies as a leader in the adoption of digital technologies in Africa.”

The US ambassador to Kenya Meg Whitman, who officiated the groundbreaking ceremony on Thursday, announced that her country’s government will fully fund the project whose budget is $30 million (Sh3.7 billion), revealing it’s part of a $300 million kitty set aside by the Joe Biden-led administration in 2021 to fund the expansion of ADC.

“In 2021, the US government announced that we will provide $300 million (Sh37.2 billion) in financing to Africa Data Centres through the US International Development Finance Corporation, our development finance institution to support ADC in extending across the continent,” said Whitman.

“In 2022 we disbursed $83 million (Sh10.3 billion) in financing to support ADC’s expansion in South Africa and today I couldn’t be more pleased to announce that $30 million (Sh3.7 billion) worth of support to ADC will go to financing this new data centre,” she added.

Read: Tech firm gets Sh2.3bn for more African data centres

In the past decade, Kenya has made remarkable strides in ICT infrastructure, consequently cementing its status as one of the leading tech hubs in the region.

Data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics shows that value addition in the ICT sector stood at Sh294 billion in 2021, registering a 30 percent rise from Sh223 billion in 2017.

The Kenya National Digital Master plan 2022-32 targets spending Sh585 billion in the sector over the next 10 years.

Since taking over the reins of power last year, President William Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza regime has set an ambitious plan to lay an additional 100,000 kilometres of the national fibre optic cable during the duration of its five-year term in efforts to speed up Internet connectivity across the country.

The government has also announced plans to set up 25,000 free Internet hotspots in major markets across the country to facilitate e-commerce.

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