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Google's Umoja cable bridges Africa and Australia, enhancing digital connectivity. (Image source: Google Cloud)

Google has unveiled new investments aimed at enhancing digital infrastructure and bolstering security measures to promote increased digital connectivity, spur economic growth, and fortify resilience throughout Africa

Umoja: Bridging Africa and Australia

Google introduces Umoja, a pioneering fiber optic pathway, marking the first direct connection between Africa and Australia. Originating in Kenya, this cable will traverse through Uganda, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa, integrating with the Google Cloud region, before spanning the Indian Ocean to reach Australia. Developed in partnership with Liquid Intelligent Technologies, Umoja is designed as a scalable network with multiple access points, enabling broader utilisation across the continent.

Named after the Swahili term for unity, Umoja is part of the Africa Connect initiative, complementing Equiano. This venture aims to bolster interconnectivity within Africa and with the global community. The establishment of a novel route, distinct from existing networks, is pivotal for ensuring network resilience in a region prone to significant outages.

The collaboration with African and Australian leaders has been instrumental in realising the Africa Connect project, which promises to benefit individuals, enterprises, and governments both in Africa and globally.

Meg Whitman, U.S. ambassador to Kenya, “Access to the latest technology, supported by reliable and resilient digital infrastructure, is critical to growing economic opportunity. This is a meaningful moment for Kenya’s digital transformation journey and the benefits of today’s announcement will cascade across the region.”

William S Ruto, president of the Republic of Kenya, added, “I am delighted to welcome Google’s investment in digital connectivity, marking a historic milestone for Kenya, Africa, and Australia. The new intercontinental fiber optic route will significantly enhance our global and regional digital infrastructure. This initiative is crucial in ensuring the redundancy and resilience of our region’s connectivity to the rest of the world, especially in light of recent disruptions caused by cuts to sub-sea cables. By strengthening our digital backbone, we are not only improving reliability but also paving the way for increased digital inclusion, innovation, and economic opportunities for our people and businesses.”

Michelle Rowland MP, Australian minister for communications, remarked, “Diversifying Australia’s connectivity and supporting digital inclusion across the globe are both incredibly important objectives, and Google’s Umoja cable will help to do just that. Australia welcomes Google’s investment and congratulates all those involved in undertaking this crucial initiative.”

Strive Masiyiwa, chairman and founder of Liquid Intelligent Technologies, commented, “Africa’s major cities including Nairobi, Kampala, Kigali, Lubumbashi, Lusaka, and Harare will no longer be hard-to-reach endpoints remote from the coastal landing sites that connect Africa to the world. They are now stations on a data superhighway that can carry thousands of times more traffic than currently reaches here. I am proud that this project helps us deliver a digitally connected future that leaves no African behind, regardless of how far they are from the technology centers of the world.”

Microsoft & G42 partner with Kenya for a US$1bn digital investment, including a green data centre, AI development, and skilling initiatives, advancing East Africa. (Image source: Adobe Stock)

Microsoft Corp. and G42 have unveiled an all-encompassing bundle of digital investments in Kenya, as part of an endeavor with the Republic of Kenya’s Ministry of Information, Communications, and the Digital Economy

In partnership with Microsoft and other stakeholders, G42 will oversee the coordination of an initial investment of US$1bn for the diverse components detailed in the comprehensive package. A primary focus of the Kenyan investment is a cutting-edge green data centre to be constructed by G42 and its associates to operate Microsoft Azure in a fresh East Africa Cloud Region.

The endeavor will encompass four supplementary pillars that will be pursued alongside local partners: native-language AI model development and exploration; an East Africa innovation lab coupled with extensive AI digital skills training; global and local connectivity investments; and cooperation with the Kenyan government to endorse safe and protected cloud services throughout East Africa.

Eco-friendly data center infrastructure and a fresh East Africa cloud zone are part of the agreement. As per the arrangement, G42, alongside local partners, will plan and construct a state-of-the-art data center campus in Olkaria, Kenya, powered entirely by renewable geothermal energy and equipped with state-of-the-art water conservation technology. The data center will operate on and offer access to Microsoft Azure through a new East Africa Cloud Region, which is expected to be operational within 24 months of the signing of the definitive agreements.

This cloud zone will grant customers entry to adaptable, protected, high-speed cloud and AI services to hasten cloud adoption and the digital evolution of enterprises, clients, and associates across Kenya and East Africa.

His Excellency, president, Dr William Samoei Ruto, stated that, “This partnership is bigger than technology itself. It is about coming together of three countries with a common vision of a nation empowered by technology, where every citizen has the opportunity to thrive in the global digital landscape. It’s about building a future where Kenya flourishes as a digital leader.”

The president emphasised, “In the spirit of mutual growth and shared prosperity, this LOI is a stepping stone toward a brighter, more connected and digitally empowered future for the USA, Kenya and the UAE. It embodies our collective aspiration to bridge the digital divide, accelerate technological innovation, and pave the way for a thriving digital economy that benefits the entire African continent and beyond.”

Peng Xiao, group chief executive officer of G42, said, “In partnership with Microsoft, we are excited to work with the Kenyan government to usher in a transformative era for the digital ecosystem in Kenya and the region. By establishing a green data center and developing AI tailored to the local culture, G42 is committed to fostering sustainable technological growth. This initiative will empower the Kenyan government and communities with robust, secure cloud services and AI capabilities, providing the foundation for a thriving digital economy across the region.”

Development of Swahili/English AI models and launch of AI societal services

To support national economic growth and development and support Kenya’s unique cultural and linguistic needs, G42 has begun work through its data infrastructure in the United States to train an open-source large language AI model in Swahili and English. To build on this and help accelerate advanced research in Kenya, Microsoft and G42 will increase their combined collaboration and support for local universities, through the Microsoft Africa Research Institute, the Microsoft AI for Good Lab, the Mohammed Bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence in Abu Dhabi, and select universities from Kenya and East Africa.

Microsoft’s AI for Good Lab in Nairobi will use AI technology to work with nonprofit organisations and other partners to help address economic and societal priorities across East Africa. This will include work to enhance food security by using advanced AI techniques to make site-specific fertiliser recommendations that increase agricultural productivity while minimising environmental impacts. It will also include support for The Nature Conservancy (TNC), using AI high-resolution satellite data to monitor and reduce water risks for downstream wildlife and communities in northern Kenya.

In addition, collaborating with the Kenya Red Cross Society, Kenya Space Agency and National Disaster Management Unit, the AI for Good Lab will work to improve climate resilience by applying AI models to high-resolution satellite data for both disaster preparedness and disaster response. And in collaboration with the Smithsonian and Kenya Wildlife Trust, the Lab will use high-resolution satellite imagery and AI to monitor wildlife populations and track livestock expansion near protected areas in East Africa.

East Africa Innovation Lab and skilling support

Microsoft and G42 will launch and operate an East African Innovation Lab in Nairobi to help Kenyan and other East African startups, entrepreneurs, companies and organisations develop and implement cloud and AI services. The East Africa Innovation Lab will provide design sessions and rapid prototyping using Microsoft tools and technology, with skilling and mentorship support from Microsoft developers who work in the company’s Africa Development Center, which has 500 employees in Nairobi.

To help accelerate digital adoption, Microsoft and G42 will collaborate with a wide array of local partners to provide a range of digital and AI skills across Kenyan society and create a future-ready workforce. This will include offering digital and AI skilling programs to all government employees, a cybersecurity skilling program for more than 2,000 people per year, and a business skilling program for young entrepreneurs aged 18 to 24. The two companies will expand on ongoing relationships and work with the Kenya Private Sector Alliance, Stanbic Kenya Foundation, MPESA Foundation, UNDP Kenya, Young African Leaders Initiative, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, and the United States International University-Africa.

Internet connectivity

Kenya’s Ministry of Information, Communications and the Digital Economy will continue to expand work with Microsoft and G42 to broaden internet connectivity. G42 and its UAE ecosystem partners will leverage their resources to support Kenya’s development of international and domestic marine and terrestrial fiber cable infrastructure.

Microsoft will continue to expand its work to bring last-mile wireless internet access to 20 million people in Kenya and 50 million people across East Africa by the end of 2025. This will build on the company’s partnerships with Mawingu Networks, Liquid, CSquared and other local partners in Kenya. It will also include work with M-KOPA, one of the largest providers of solar home systems globally. As part of a fintech financing platform, M-KOPA has pioneered a pay-as-you-go model for smartphones ownership, with 2 million devices sold to date across the region.

Digital safety, privacy and security

Microsoft and G42 will work with the government of Kenya and will design and operate the new East Africa cloud region as part of a “trusted data zone” based on global standards to protect digital safety, privacy and security. With technical assistance and support from G42 and Microsoft, Kenya will establish the new data center as part of a “trusted data zone” under which data from other countries may be governed by their local laws, even while stored and resident in Kenya.
Kenya will utilize the new data center and cloud services for governmental and citizen services, and it will provide government support by adopting a “cloud-first” policy like those enacted in other countries to permit and encourage the government, its agencies, state-owned enterprises and other local entities to move their data and computing services to the cloud.

The parties will also work together to pursue the steps needed to ensure Kenya has sufficient contractual and technical assurances to support trusted digital and sovereign cloud services from the UAE, to facilitate rapid digital transformation even before the completed construction of the G42-Microsoft services in Kenya itself.

Microsoft will provide cybersecurity assistance and support to its customers in Kenya and across East Africa, including through the Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center (MSTIC) and the Microsoft Threat Analysis Center (MTAC).

Microsoft creates platforms and tools powered by AI to deliver innovative solutions that meet the evolving needs of our customers. The technology company is committed to making AI available broadly and doing so responsibly, with a mission to empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more

Afreximbank and MobiHealth team up to expand telemedicine in Africa, aiming for better healthcare access in Nigeria, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, and Côte d'Ivoire. (Image source: Adobe Stock)

The African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) and MobiHealthCare Limited (MobiHealth) have signed an agreement for a project preparation facility aimed at expanding MobiHealth’s telemedicine services in Nigeria and evaluating the potential for similar services in Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, and Côte d'Ivoire

According to the agreement, Afreximbank will partially fund the preparatory activities for leveraging MobiHealth’s integrated telemedicine platform, initially piloted in Nigeria, to the four additional countries. This initiative is expected to quickly lead to the establishment of a network of telemedicine clinics across Africa, fully equipped with outpatient facilities. The project preparation facility, amounting to up to US$1.5mn, is anticipated to advance the project to a bankable stage, which could then attract further investments estimated at US$65mn.

The preparatory facility aims to accelerate the deployment of digital healthcare solutions, improving access, efficiency, and quality of healthcare. MobiHealth’s platform employs both local and diaspora medical professionals to diagnose and prescribe treatments remotely. This approach reduces waiting and travel times, provides new ways to reach underserved populations, and removes barriers to healthcare access.

Additionally, Afreximbank will act as the mandated lead arranger, overseeing senior debt syndication for the project's implementation.

The MobiHealth transaction was initiated through the Africa Investment Forum (AIF) platform under its 'Women as Investment Champions' initiative. Afreximbank is one of the founding partners of the AIF, which has played a key role in securing a US$1.0mn grant for MobiHealth from the United States Trade and Development Agency (USTDA).

Kanayo Awani, Executive Vice President, Intra-African Trade and Export Development Bank, Afreximbank, commented, “This initiative will fundamentally reshape the delivery of healthcare services with broader implications for healthcare services across the continent. We will not only be embracing digital technology but also harnessing the same to help our member countries accelerate their progress towards the attainment of Universal Healthcare Coverage, and improve equitable access to quality, affordable healthcare. Afreximbank is pleased to join USTDA to support bankable studies and services to ensure advancement of this impactful health project.”

Dr. Funmi Adewara, Chief Executive Officer and the project sponsor of MobiHealth, said, “The signing of this facility agreement marks yet another significant milestone in MobiHealth’s quest to proffer digital healthcare solutions across the continent. We are thrilled to have the support of Afreximbank, a pan-African multilateral financial institution with the scale and capacity to enable us to achieve this objective in a timely manner. Their involvement is a strong validation for our business model and I would like to laud Afreximbank, AIF and USTDA for their visionary leadership and steadfast commitment to support the provision of quality healthcare to African citizens.”

Telecom giants Orange and Vodacom are exploring a strategic partnership to cut costs and expand network coverage in Africa, aiming to enhance connectivity and digital reach. (Image source: Adobe Stock)

Leading telecommunications giants Orange and Vodacom are in talks to form a strategic partnership in Africa, aiming to cut costs and expand network coverage across the continent 

This potential collaboration could revolutionise African telecommunications, enhancing connectivity and digital services for millions.

Sources indicate that the two companies are considering agreements to share infrastructure and jointly develop connectivity in overlapping markets, such as Egypt and the Democratic Republic of Congo. By combining their resources and expertise, Orange and Vodacom hope to reduce the financial strain of network expansions, especially in rural areas where returns on investment are typically lower. This initiative could significantly speed up the deployment of mobile networks and help bridge the digital divide in underserved regions.

Both companies are eager to tap into the rapidly growing African market, which has seen a surge in mobile service adoption, particularly among young, tech-savvy users. The partnership could allow them to offer a broader range of innovative services, including data-driven solutions and mobile financial services, tailored to the evolving needs of African consumers.

Their potential collaboration is further supported by a successful pilot project in Romania, where they achieved a technological breakthrough by conducting the first real-life 4G calls over a shared commercial network using Open RAN technology. This success showcases the feasibility of their joint approach to network development and innovation.

If the partnership comes to fruition, it could have significant implications for the African telecommunications industry, setting a new standard for cooperation among major players. However, challenges remain, including securing regulatory approvals, managing operational complexities, and ensuring fair market competition.

While discussions are ongoing and no final decisions have been made, the prospective Orange-Vodacom partnership represents a major step towards transforming African connectivity. By joining forces, these industry leaders could accelerate the continent’s digital transformation, provide millions with affordable mobile services, and stimulate economic growth through innovation.

The next few months will be critical as both companies navigate negotiations and seek regulatory approvals. As the African market continues to evolve, this potential partnership could play a key role in shaping the future of telecommunications on the continent.

“Our aim is to potentially alleviate the costs of rollout and rural connectivity, helping to address costs to communicate and narrow the digital divide,” a source from Vodacom told the news agency.

The two companies have been looking to boost their presence in Africa.

PAIX Data Centres expands capacity in Ghana to 1.2MW to boost Africa’s digital economy. (Image source: PAIX Data Centres)

PAIX Data Centres, a prominent provider of data centre solutions, has announced the expansion of its Accra facility to 1.2MW. This critical boost aims to enhance the digital economy and stimulate job creation in Ghana 

As one of the largest data centres in the country, the upgraded facility will empower internet service providers (ISPs), cloud providers, and enterprises to fully leverage robust digital infrastructure and improved connectivity. These resources will enable the growth of online businesses, including e-commerce, in the digital era.

The expansion comes at a crucial juncture, as the demand for reliable and scalable data centers in Africa is projected to outstrip supply by 300% over the next two years. To meet this escalating demand, the current installed capacity of 250MW must be significantly increased to 1,200MW by 2030, with data consumption expected to rise by 40% annually until 2025, according to industry estimates.

Accra data centre upgrade highlights

The newly upgraded facility features state-of-the-art infrastructure and robust security measures, ensuring optimal performance for mission-critical applications and services. Additionally, advanced cooling and waste management systems, along with an increased integration of renewable energy sources, contribute to improved environmental impact.

Strategically located in Accra, the data center offers low-latency connectivity to major regional and international network routes, as well as subsea cables, further enhancing overall efficiency and performance.

PAIX Data Centres initially acquired its Accra facility in 2018 and later constructed a second data center in Kenya in 2020. The company’s mission is to drive digital transformation and foster innovation across Africa by providing world-class data center solutions that empower businesses in the digital age.

Africa50, an infrastructure investor and asset manager, committed US$20mn in equity investment to PAIX Data Centres in 2022 to support its expansion into new markets and the upgrade of existing facilities. 

Bright Tawiah, managing director, PAIX Data Centres, Ghana, said, “This expansion reaffirms our dedication to providing best-in-class data center solutions to our customers in Accra and beyond. As one of Africa’s digital economy hotspots, Accra plays a vital role in driving innovation and growth across various industries. We are proud to be at the forefront of this transformation, enabling businesses to thrive in today's increasingly connected world".

Alexander Sulzberger, co-founder & chief technical officer, Ecoband Networks, remarked, “Ecoband Networks has been one of PAIX's longest-standing customers, utilizing the RackAfrica datacenter in Accra since its inception in 2013. We have been extremely pleased with the continuous expansion and upgrade plans spearheaded by the PAIX management, ensuring the delivery of world-class data center services with zero downtime. This reliability provides Ecoband and our international carrier partners hosted in Accra with a solid foundation for our ISP operations.”

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