When you think of Africa and established technology markets, South Africa must rate as one of the biggest and best on the continent.

While this is an undeniable reality, the political situation in the country has left many people asking serious questions regarding investment in the country. However, at a time when companies are thinking of giving South Africa a wide berth, Microsoft has announced that it is taking the bold step into expanding onto our doorstep.

Hyperscaling capacity

According to an article on itweb, Microsoft has announced plans to break ground in Johannesburg and Cape Town to build its first hyperscale datacentres in Africa.

With initial availability expected in 2018, the datacentres will deliver a range of cloud services, namely Azure, Office 365 and Dynamics 365, to South Africa and other Sub-Saharan markets.

Zoaib Hoosen, MD of Microsoft South Africa, told itweb that this investment underlines the company’s continued investment in the continent.

The location of datacentres locally will enable a higher quality of service, performance and reliability, the company says. The news will also ease concerns around data residency and sovereignty.

“The presence of local facilities will be greatly encouraging to South African customers, particularly those in regulated industries such as financial services and the public sector, where data sovereignty concerns are paramount. This is a strongly positive development for the cloud industry in Africa,” Jon Tullett, Senior Research Manager at IDC MEA, told itweb.

Growing demand

The article adds that Microsoft has already seen growth in demand for cloud services across Africa, claiming it has brought 728 000 African Small to Medium Enterprises online, with over 500 000 using Microsoft cloud services. It also has pan-African corporate giants as clients, such as Standard Bank, which relies on Azure to deliver apps and services to African customers.

Speaking to itweb, Scott Guthrie – executive Vice President of the Microsoft Cloud and Enterprise Group – said, “We are excited by the growing demand for cloud services in Africa and the ability of the cloud to act as a catalyst for new economic opportunities. By delivering the Microsoft Cloud from within Africa, cloud services ranging from intelligent collaboration to predictive analytics will spur entrepreneurship and innovation, fuel growth for businesses of all sizes, and enable government organisations to better serve the needs of their citizens.”

What does this mean?

So what does this announcement mean for South Africa?

Firstly, it underlines our ambition to become the technological powerhouse that it has the potential to be. The only thing that is holding us back is connectivity. Go anywhere around Africa and you are connected via fast, secure fibre connectivity. It baffles the mind that you have better connectivity in a country like Ghana and Senegal than you do in South Africa. Microsoft is a big company and probably wont stand for that bullshit, so expect connectivity to get better within our own borders.

Secondly, Microsoft has ambitions far greater than merely cultivating an existence in South Africa, Microsoft has seen the potential that Africa has to offer and will use Mzanzi as a springboard into the rest of Africa.

Lastly, and most importantly, it means that data sovereignty will be vested in a market where clients will feel secure that their data is in the best hands. There will be no more sleepless night worrying about the risks that data existing on the cloud means. This will also be compatible with the Protection of Private Information Act as soon as that is ratified.

What does this mean for GTconsult? We are already a Microsoft valued business partner, so this will give us an opportunity to cultivate that business relationship and possibly elevate it to the next level. When Microsoft wants to expand into Africa, it will want to do so with the assistance of business partners who they know they can trust. GTconsult is not only a proudly South African company, but is a proudly African company. When Microsoft feels it wants to spread its wings into  Africa, we will be on hand to assist.

The future looks bright!