Home to most of the “last billion” people globally still not properly connected to the internet, Africa is at the centre of a 21st century equivalent of a “gold rush” as tech giants like Google and Facebook are racing to establish the digital infrastructure needed to handle the continent’s exploding demand for data.
Demand for high-speed internet with minimal latency has shot up since the pandemic as millions of Africans work from home, the FT reports. Key to supplying the most modern digital services on the continent lies, however, in managing much older technology.
- The huge growth in the continent’s internet capacity, which is becoming faster and more local, means big implications for Africa’s economies – and, as elsewhere, the shift has only accelerated during the pandemic and is now attracting global infrastructure investors.
- The number of Africans connected is forecast to grow by 200 million to 475 million by 2025. Average mobile data traffic is expected to quadruple, reaching just over 7GB per month per user. Demand will be for ever-faster data connections at cheaper prices.
- A data-centre boom is already happening and is seen, along with cabling, as the key to unlocking lower costs and better service for Africans. But the biggest barrier to growth is proving to be a lack of a cheap reliable energy supplies, which are vital to keep data centres operating economically.
“Everyone is excited about leapfrogging, but it is important to understand how infrastructure-heavy the digital economy is . . . data centres really epitomise this symbiotic role between the internet and power” – Rose Mutiso, research director at Energy for Growth Hub.
Sourced from the Financial Times