Microsoft’s Expands Azure Cloud Data Centers to South Africa

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Cloud computing giants Microsoft and Amazon are setting their sights on Africa, a continent that until recently was largely bypassed by the data center building boom elsewhere across the globe.

Microsoft said Wednesday that its opening two new cloud computing data center “regions” in Cape Town and Johannesburg, South Africa. Data center regions consist of interconnected data centers that are designed to provide computing resources to companies and organizations in the surrounding area.

Although many big enterprise technology companies already operate in South Africa, Microsoft claims it’s the first one to open a major cloud data center region in South Africa akin to the ones it operates in the U.S.

In 2017, Microsoft announced its planned data centers in South Africa, saying at the time that they would be ready in 2018. But the opening was delayed until this year.

Several other companies also plan big cloud or technology initiatives in Africa. Amazon said in October that it would open an AWS data center region in Cape Town during the first half of 2020. Meanwhile, Huawei said its new cloud computing facility that is leased from a local provider is now operational in Johannesburg. Google, which doesn’t currently operate an African data center, opened an A.I. research center in Ghana last year.

Companies are investing heavily in Africa because of the potential economic growth of the continent as Internet connectivity expands in rural areas. Zander said that Microsoft projects that spending in South Africa on cloud resources would triple in the next five years from an unspecified number and that cloud computing could end up creating 112,000 new jobs by the end of 2020. That number counts not only jobs at Microsoft, but also third-party companies including startups because the data centers make it easier for them to build apps and setup their corporate infrastructure.