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[INTERVIEW] Africa Data Centres in Nigeria to make life easier for businesses – Stephane Duproz

“Africa Data Centres is already the largest pan-African data centre operator and we are leaders in Kenya, South Africa; we have operations in Zimbabwe, Rwanda and we are now coming to Nigeria”.

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Stephane Duproz is CEO at Africa Data Centres
Stephane Duproz

Stephane Duproz is CEO at Africa Data Centres, where he oversees the commercial and operational development of the pan-African network of data centre facilities. 

While growing Africa Data Centres’ customer base of local and international cloud providers, carriers and enterprises, Stephane also manages the expansion of Africa Data Centres’ network of data centres across the continent.

A highly experienced data centre professional, Stephane has worked for over 20 years in the sector, including over 14 years at TelecityGroup. 

Joining Africa Data Centres from Global Switch, where he served as Group Director for Europe. During his time at TelecityGroup, Stephane was Managing Director of its French subsidiary, establishing the company as the most profitable data centre operator in the country.

Stephane has also served as Chairman of the Board for the European Data Centre Association (EUDCA), and acted as Vice President Member of the French Data Centre Association (CESIT).

Born and raised in Africa, Stephane is passionate about the role technology can play in transforming Africa’s economy.

I had a chat with Stephane recently on the sideline of Africa Data Centres’ expansion to Nigeria.

Africa Data Centres

ADC – Johannesburg

Jumping on the plane again after COVID-19 lockdown that paralyzed the global economy, how do you feel?

We haven’t stopped doing business during COVID at all because what we do as a data centre is to have within our walls the digital life, and the digital life has never been as buoyant as during COVID.

People who are working from home are using a lot of digital tools like Zoom and all of those tools need to have infrastructure to be able to work; and that infrastructure is a server or several servers and data centres house those servers. We’ve had very good business during COVID.

How significant is Africa Data Centres’ launch in Nigeria in line with the vision for the continent?

Africa Data Centres is already the largest pan-African data centre operator and we are leaders in Kenya, South Africa; we have operations in Zimbabwe, Rwanda and we are now coming to Nigeria.

We are already the largest but I have announced a few weeks ago that we were actually launching a further expansion plan which is the largest data centre expansion plan in Africa ever, where we are dedicating half a billion dollars to expand in 10 countries.

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Meaning countries we already are and also new countries. Those new counties will be new hubs, we have regional hubs. South Africa being a hub, Kenya being a hub, Nigeria being a hub and we are looking at deploying new hubs in Morocco and Egypt.

And then building around Lagos hub, we already have a presence in Lomé, Togo and we are soon going to have operations in Ghana, Ivory Coast and Senegal.

In terms of the verticals, you said you’ve seen growth for digitisation and demand for data centre services, which is why you’re expanding even where you are and in new territories. Are the verticals from the government or the private sector? Where is this growth coming from?

There are various verticals we specialise in. The first is telecom operators, because our data centres are shopping centres, they need to be accessible through a lot of roads and those roads in the digital world are obviously telecom operators. That’s a very important part of what we do and even without having opened yet, we are opening now, we already have almost 20 of them who have reached us to come and sell their services in our data centres.

Then, obviously, governments are an important vertical because they use a lot of digital tools and digital business to be more efficient to make savings to develop the various sectors of the economy. The digital world helps agriculture. One would think of media services, but it actually really serves agriculture, health of course, education, etc.

The third vertical Africa Data Centres are specialised in is everything related to the cloud. The large international calibrators have started to deploy in Africa, starting with South Africa mainly and there are our customers in South Africa.

Now that we serve them every day and they are happy with that service, it’s good and easy for them to deploy where we are in other countries, they are already with us now in Nairobi, Kenya and they are going to come to us and we are absolutely convinced that there would soon be an important deployment of cloud capacities in Nigeria.

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The last one is enterprise with the key specialisation in financial services.

A recent report says that the utilisation capacity of 11 data centres in Nigeria is about 30%. What is the value you’ve placed in this economy? What are your projections? What do you think about Nigeria? You’re already thinking of having a data center in Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt, what are you seeing that other players are not seeing?

The first thing is that we are talking to the pan-African players so we know what they want to do. The second thing is that data centres have levels; just like in every business, there are different positioning and what we have as a special positioning is that ecosystem I have explained. That shopping centre; the marketplace we are creating – once that marketplace is in place, people will want to come, like in any market to buy and sell. It’s that interaction between our customers that we are specialised in doing.

The other thing again is that we want to be pan-African. We are looking at creating those hubs, those ecosystems but also, all our data centres are interconnected and we are talking to various customers including banks of service providers that do not only have a national vision but have an international and African vision, we can serve them everywhere.

So, that is the thing that is making us different and that’s the reason why we are convinced that we are going to have success and again, our existing customers are telling us that Nigeria is a very big market.

Data centres are infrastructure of infrastructures, at the same time, they need support of other infrastructures like power supply. How are you going about this? Do you have an agreement with independent power producers to ensure you’re up 24 hours?

In terms of power, we have decided that we will be carbon neutral in this decade, so we are doing everything, everywhere to go in that direction.

We are looking at each and every possibility of using renewable power and we would be looking at each and every opportunity related to that in Nigeria, the same as everywhere.

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We currently have secured various options of getting power and we are working heavily on securing renewable power.

The one being launched today is it a Tier III or Tier IV standard?

We are Tier III standard. The reality is that not a lot of customers actually need Tier IV everywhere in the world. Tier IV is really specific for specific applications and as it needs virtual equipment and that equipment consumes power, it is less efficient.

So the switchboard is really Tier III.

How much are you investing on this facility here? Regarding the skills, do you believe you can get the needed core competencies and skills here to drive this?

Of course, together with our experience, the skills in Africa are fantastic. I have been dealing with data centres for more than 20 years and that experience does really exist here in Africa and that’s why getting together, using the Africa skill, and sharing my experience is great.

To that, we are launching the first phase of a 10 megawatts project for which the investment required will be in excess of $100 billion and that’s only the first data centre and we are looking at opening some more both in Lagos and in other parts of the country.

We will be spending a lot of time in training people, creating jobs so that we are in a sector that grows a lot and we want to share that growth with young people who have an understanding of what we are doing in terms of power, schooling, customer service and we will welcome them, train them and make them the experts in the country.

What is your promise to the customers in Nigeria?

We will share the experience we have of how enterprises can use data centres and digital tools the way they use it in other countries in Africa and other continents and we will make their lives easier because we will share that experience.

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