JOHANNESBURG – Global technology giant, Microsoft said on Wednesday it had rolled out its first data centres in Africa, with investments in South Africa’s Cape Town and Johannesburg, two of southern Africa’s biggest cities.

The US headquartered giant announced the availability of Microsoft Azure from the new cloud regions, making it the first major provider to roll out cloud services from Africa based data centres, according to a statement released after the launch.

Microsoft said the launch will help companies move their businesses to the cloud while meeting compliance needs.

“Microsoft Azure is now available from our new cloud regions in Cape Town and Johannesburg,” said Yousef Khalidi, corporate vice president, Azure Networking at Microsoft.
“The combination of Microsoft’s global cloud infrastructure with the new regions in Africa will create greater economic opportunity for organisations in Africa, accelerate new global investment, and improve access to cloud and internet services,”
Ibrahim Youssry, Microsoft’s general manager for North, West, East, Central Africa, Levant and Pakistan said the launch of the service was part of the global giant’s strategy to expand its network across all regions.

“Today is a milestone moment in bringing the global cloud closer to home for African citizens and businesses. Enterprises across Africa can now take full advantage of the many benefits of Microsoft Azure, using cloud services to maintain security and meet compliance standards,” Youssry said.

According to the Cloud Africa 2018 report, cloud use among medium to large organisations on the continent doubled in the four years to 2018.

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The report said more than 90 percent of companies in South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria planned to increase spending on cloud computing in the coming year in order to tap into the benefits of cloud’s efficiency and scalability,

However, the report said a secure offering remained imperative in maintaining the momentum build in the past few years.

Many African CEOs were concerned about cyber threats, according to the report.

“Microsoft has deep expertise in protecting data and empowering customers around the globe to meet extensive security and privacy requirements, including offering the broadest set of compliance certifications and attestations in the industry,” Khalidi said in a statement. “We look forward to supporting more African enterprises in their cloud journeys and offering a trusted path to digital transformation,” he noted.

With a network of over 10 000 local partners and a near 30-year history of operating on the continent, the new datacentres form part of Microsoft’s ongoing investment to enable digital transformation across Africa.

In 2013, Microsoft launched its 4Afrika Initiative, working with governments, partners, start-ups and youth to develop more affordable access to the internet, 21st century skills, and locally relevant technology. Recently, this included a partnership with FirstBank Nigeria to expand cloud services and digital educational platforms to small scale enterprises customers.

In Kenya, Microsoft is expanding FarmBeats, an end-to-end approach to help farmers benefit from technology.

FarmBeats strives to enable data-driven farming, bringing together traditional knowledge, intuition and data to help increase farm productivity and yields.

The statement said Microsoft had established a network of over 800 Microsoft Imagine Academies, offering students of various age groups direct training in the technology field.
“We are working with partners to accelerate cloud readiness and adoption in Africa, ensuring enterprises can deliver services to market faster, businesses can make more data-driven decisions, and governments can better connect with citizens,” Youssry said on Wednesday. “As we connect more businesses to Azure, we are seeing heightened innovation in the cloud and start-ups expanding their services to new markets. The combination of Microsoft’s global cloud infrastructure with the new regions in Africa will now connect businesses with even more opportunity and customers across the globe,” he said.