Building Africa’s Hyperscale Infrastructure

Chris Wood outlines the reasons Africa is primed for growth and how hyperscale infrastructure can improve telecoms services in the continent.By Chris Wood
May 18, 2020

Africa is the world’s second largest and second most populous continent, and is in many regards the one most primed for ICT growth:

  • according to the latest (March 2020) internet usage figures from Internet World Stats[1], only 39.3% of Africa’s estimated 1.34 billion population currently use the internet – significantly less than the 62.9% figure for the rest of the world.
  • the GSMA predicts[2] that between 2019 and 2025 the number of unique mobile subscribers in sub-Saharan Africa will increase by 30% – from 475.8 million to 617.6 million.
  • by 2050, UNICEF[3] expects a quarter of the world’s total population and 40% of those aged under 18 to be African.

The time is ripe

For companies offering connectivity-dependent products, applications and services in Africa, the prospects for business growth are very positive.

Usage of internet-based social networking applications, music and video streaming, online gaming, etc. is on a steep upward curve in Africa as availability of lower-cost, higher bandwidth access improves across the continent. The scope for further increases in internet uptake and bandwidth utilisation in Africa is huge.

Mobile service uptake, driven by the desire to connect to such applications, will continue its inexorable growth as device costs and usage tariffs fall and average income levels rise.

When the greater propensity for internet usage among younger adults is factored in, this makes the business picture even more attractive.

How times have changed

The international connectivity landscape in Africa has changed considerably in recent years, as the expansion requirements of traditional fixed and mobile operators, internet service providers (ISPs) and other service providers have been matched by the capacity demands of the new-to-this-market Over-The-Top (OTT) players and content providers.

Only a few years ago, typical carrier capacity requirements for international capacity in Africa would be measured as a number of STM1s (155Mbps) of capacity, but this is no longer the case. The rapid increase in the uptake of bandwidth-hungry applications across sub-Saharan Africa has driven up international capacity demands from carriers and ISPs needing extra connectivity to the internet globally. At the same time, global OTT players and content providers have been building their presence and capability in Africa – migrating their content and applications to servers in local data centres and thereby delivering new capabilities and service performance improvements to African consumers. This is enabling them to boost customer acquisition and maximise their revenue opportunities on the continent.

[1] Internet World Stats, Africa Stats, 2017

[2] GSMA, The Mobile Economy, 2020

[3] UNICEF, August 2014. Generation 2030/Africa Report

To continue reading the rest of this article, please read it in Issue 112 of the SubTel Forum Magazine on page 51 or on our archive site here.