Ethiopia's Silicon Valley Adds Four Data Centres

Four new data centre companies have secured land to make their home at Ethio ICT Park, Ethiopia's Silicon Valley. Raxio Data Plc, RedFox Web Solution, ScutiX and Wingu.africa have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Ethiopian Investment Commission and have initiated preliminary steps to commence construction at the Park.

The biggest lot has been allotted to Wingu.africa at 15,000Sqm, while RedFox, Scutix and Raxio have been granted 4,000Sqm, 6,386Sqm, and 1,000Sqm of land, respectively. The companies will be providing storage, infrastructure solutions for cloud computing, webspace and domain hosting, virtual private centres and collocation services.

The data centres, which are expected to create employment opportunities for over 250 people, will also avail customised applications to industries like telecom, banking and insurance, among others.

The construction of these data centres is in line with the country's ambition toward nurturing a digital economy, according to Mekonnen Hailu, public relations director at the Ethiopian Investment Commission.

"This will be especially beneficial for industrial parks, which are now increasing in number," he said. "By the time this becomes operational, it'll be very relevant."

American-based Raxio Data Plc has already constructed its first data centre investment in Africa, Raxio Data Centre Ltd in Uganda, and plans to open over 10 additional similar facilities, likely in Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Upon final phase completion, Raxio will be able to house around 400 racks and offer 1.5MW of IT capacity.

The company expects to finalise the construction of its Tier III carrier-neutral facility in the Park within nine months, according to Welela Haileselassie, country manager for Raxio. Drawing on the best practice models from Uganda, it will be using a modular design that enables it to expand as demand grows. In Uganda, the company had used a brick and mortar design, which doesn't offer as much flexibility.

"Cooling, power and connectivity are the elements that Raxio will ensure in its services," said Welela. "We remove that headache for users."

The opportunities for this service are many in Ethiopia, according to her, stating that Raxio has received interest from multinational companies during its preliminary assessment.

The construction of the data centres will commence as soon as the companies complete design and other pre-construction procedures. This will entail a site survey and soil investigation process, as well as submission of construction permit requests and final design approval by the Industrial Parks Development Corporation.

The data centres will also relieve IT firms in the country from expenditures in foreign currency. Companies like ZalaTech Plc, an IT consultancy firm that has been working in the city for over three years, pay external data centres in other countries for the use of cloud servers.

"The introduction of local data centres will help reduce these costs for the IT firm," says the company's managing partner, Amha Wondimu. "It will also encourage small businesses and startups by providing accessible storage services."

"It'll relieve a lot of costs for small companies that cannot afford to buy expensive servers," he said. "This is without taking into account costs for the accessories that the servers require."

But the quality of the servers should be given due attention, according to him. The bandwidth of Ethio telecom, the country's sole telecom operator at present, is also significant.

"Internet shutoffs also discourage such strides," he added.

The government is also in the process of establishing a national data centre, where the fundamental information, data and statistics of all federal institutions and citizens will be stored securely. The centre, to be built by the Ministry of Innovation & Technology, will also offer cloud services, making it the first nationally hosted cloud facility. The bids for the construction of the data centre were announced last week.

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