Tech giant Google today announced the launch of a cloud region in South Africa, its first on the continent, catching up with other top providers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure, which penetrated the continent a few years ago.
Google also said it is also building Dedicated Cloud Interconnect sites in Nairobi (Kenya), Lagos (Nigeria) and South Africa (Cape Town and Johannesburg), which will connect users’ on-premises networks to Google’s network, in its pursuit to provide full-scale cloud capabilities for its customers and partners in Africa.
Google plans to tap its own submarine cable, Equiano, which connects Africa and Europe to power the sites. Equiano has been in development since 2019 and has made four landings so far – in Togo, Namibia, Nigeria and South Africa.
South Africa now joins Google’s global network of 35 cloud regions and 106 zones worldwide, and the announcement follows the recent preview launch of regions in Malaysia, Thailand and New Zealand. Google Cloud Regions allow users to deploy cloud resources from specific geographic locations and access various services including cloud storage, compute engine, and key management system.
“We are excited to announce the first Google Cloud region in Africa. The new region will enable the localization of applications and services. It will really make it easier for our customers and partners to quickly deploy solutions for their business, leveraging our computer artificial intelligence or machine learning capabilities and data analytics to make smarter business decisions as they move forward,” he said. Google Cloud Africa Director, Niral Patel.
He added that the new region and interconnection sites will bring his cloud computing services closer to his customers, allowing his customers to choose where to source the products.
“What we’re doing here is giving customers and partners a choice of where to store their data and where to use cloud services, especially in the context of data sovereignty. This allows customers to then store the data in the country if they choose…I think for me the most important element is that it gives customers the element of choice,” Patel said.
The ability for users to choose where to store their data is becoming increasingly important as countries like Kenya implement privacy and data laws, requiring companies to store and process their data within borders through servers hosted locally.
The decision to establish a region in South Africa was prompted by the demand for cloud services and the market potential. Still, the company aims to launch in more markets within the continent as demand for its products rises. Early adopters include large enterprises and e-commerce companies such as TakeAlot in South Africa and Twiga in Kenya.
“We continue to evaluate market demand as we work with our customers to see them transform and grow in these markets. We make these assessments continuously and on that basis we continue to invest,” said Patel.
According to research by AlphaBeta Economics, commissioned by Google Cloud, the South African cloud region will contribute more than $2.1 billion to South Africa’s GDP and support the creation of more than 40,000 jobs by 2030.
Google Cloud, Azure by Microsoft and AWS are the top three players in public cloud storage in the world data from Gartnerbut it’s unclear why Google has been absent from Africa until now.
Microsoft launched two cloud regions in South Africa in 2019: Cape Town and Johannesburg (only the cloud region in the latter remains active) in 2019, the same year that Google announced it had “no plans to establish a cloud region or data center in Africa.” said Microsoft. to this report; however, it did not rule out the possibility of this happening in the near future.
Amazon followed suit in 2020 and scaled its AWS data centers via Cape Town to South Africa. Oracle, another major player, also established its data center in Johannesburg this year. In response to whether Google is trying to catch up with other cloud storage players, Patel and Nitin Gajria, the director of Google Africa, painted a picture where every major player is concerned about broadening the internet ecosystem in Africa via their data centers instead of competing for greater market share.
“As for where we are in the internet-enabled continent, we need to think about how we can bring more people and businesses online, how we can help more entrepreneurs access capital, and so on,” Gajria noted. “In business parlance, this is less of a zero-sum game for market share, but more about how we can work collectively in the private sector, public sector and civil society to simply build a large, vibrant internet ecosystem that helps broaden economies and businesses, but also to create jobs.”
With the launch of Google, South Africa now hosts four major cloud storage providers on the continent.