Wingu.Africa, an international data centre developer, has signed lease agreements with five companies in the banking and ICT industries for space at its data centre in the Ethio ICT Park in the outskirts of Addis Abeba.

Last week, the agreements were announced during an inaugural ceremony hosted by Wingu at the Sheraton Addis Hotel.

Africom Technologies, a local IT and software solutions firm incorporated in 2004 with a paid-up capital of 30,000 Br, is one of the companies that has signed a contract with Wingu. It works in software development and business process outsourcing, analysing millions of gigabytes of data from the US, Europe, Canada, and Australia.

The software company used to host its website on Amazon Web Services for a monthly fee of 200 dollars.

"It's an opportunity for us," says Baheru Zeyenu, CEO and co-founder of Africom Technologies. "It saves us the cost of hosting in international data centres and paying in foreign currency. We can find the services we need here."

The company has an estimated annual turnover of around 30 million Br, with 15 permanent and 350 project-based staff. It looks to rent a single rack to start, with plans to expand to five in a few years, according to the Baheru.

A standard rack can hold 14 servers.

Goh Betoch Bank, a newly launched bank leasing space from Wingu.Africa, started operations last month with 521 million Br in paid-up capital. The Bank has thus far been using its data centre. It looks to work with Wingu as its services and client base grow.

"We need more data centres and disaster recovery sites as a backup and as we're expanding our operations," Mulugeta Asmare, president of Goh Betoch, told Fortune.

Close to 2,000 clients have opened accounts with Goh Bank at its two branches in Addis Abeba and Dire Dawa. The Bank plans to open branches in Bahir Dar and Hawassa, Mulugeta disclosed.

The Bank of Abyssinia (BoA), Websprix, and CNET Software Technologies are companies that have agreed to lease space at the data centre. Abyssinia serves more than five million depositors, upgrading its existing data centre in 2019 at 100 million Br. Its previous data centre, which the Bank has been using since 2011, is now used as a backup.

Wingu.Africa's executives plan to avail their services to new customers in the coming month.

The company is among four multinational ICT firms to set up in the Ethio ICT Park, dubbed the "Ethiopian Silicon Valley", after signing agreements with the Ethiopian Investment Commission (EIC) in late 2020. The Park in Qilinto, in the eastern limits of the capital, is under the supervision of the Industrial Parks Development Corporation (IPDC). A subsidiary of a parent company incorporated in Mauritius, Wingu.Africa is owned by founders from Cyprus and the United Kingdom (UK). Africa Capital Works, an investment fund, holds a stake in the company as well.

It began developing its data centre in Ethiopia two years ago on a 15,000sqm plot. Its executives say what has been completed thus far is the first phase of a planned four. The company has spent over 30 million dollars on the first two phases, according to Nicholas Lodge, chief strategy officer for Wingu.Africa. He says the second phase is expected to be finalised by the end of this year.

The first phase comprises the building of the data centre and the setting up of infrastructure. The company has erected 100 racks – steel and electronic frames that house servers and networking equipment. The centre also includes cooling systems and generators. Wingu requires around 1.2mw of electric power to run the edifice.

The second phase involves setting up 200 additional racks, bringing demand for up to four megawatts of power. The subsequent phases will add 200 racks each to the data centre. At full completion, the centre will host 800 racks with a power requirement of up to 12mw. By the end of this year, more than 300 racks will be available to customers, Lodge projected.

Tenants in the Park have to pay an annual lease fee for their sheds.

Opened six years ago, the 200ht Park operates under the IPDC. The Corporation revised lease prices a couple of months ago, setting the fee at 30.24 dollars a year for a square metre for foreign firms. Domestic clients have to pay a lease rate of 21 dollars a square metre.

RedFox Web Solutions, Orange Digital Centre Ethiopia, Scutix, and Raxio Data Centre Plc are the other foreign firms setting up data centres inside the Park on land between 4,000sqm and 10,00sqm. The Ministry of Innovation & Technology is also erecting its own centre.

Raxio, part of the US-based Roha Group, signed an agreement with the EIC two years ago. Its executives plan to avail a centre with an IT capacity of 1.5mw.

"Raxio is undergoing construction," says Welela Haileselassie, the country manager.

Orange, a French multinational telecommunications corporation, launched a digital centre at the Park last year.

The Innovation Ministry is also undertaking the construction of a National Data Centre in the Park with one billion Birr. The structure will house government data, hoping to save expenditures on redundant efforts by various federal agencies in building separate data centres. The Ethiopian Roads Administration and the Ministry of Transport & Logistics recently erected a 100 million Br data centre in Addis Abeba.

With the growth of the ICT and telecom sector, the need for data centres is growing. The most recent addition is Safaricom Ethiopia's 100 million dollar data centre in the Akaki-Qality District, launched last month.

Wingu plans to avail its services to companies seeking storage services. Its executives eye the financial sector, hotels, supermarkets, and airlines as those have a higher need for massive data storage. Wingu is also interested in securing land in Adama (Oromia Regional State) and Bahir Dar (Amhara Regional State) to develop more data centres. Its executives plan on using the auxiliary centres as disaster recovery facilities to back up data, erected at least 50Km away from the primary facility.

"The plan is to erect three data centres in Ethiopia in a couple of years," said Lodge.

Solomon Mohammed is an IT infrastructure expert who has worked in the industry for nearly a decade. He saw the growing availability of data centres as a much-needed development for the country's growing digital needs.

"I'll be valuable for small companies, saving them the cost of building a data centre on their own and looking for other alternatives," he said.

However, Solomon warns that the limited number of companies in the industry may compel customers to settle on any offered price. He also notes regulatory gaps, as no local or internationally recognised organisations oversee the data centres and ascertain they are up to standard.

"Security issues need to be assessed and carefully considered," said Solomon.

PUBLISHED ON Mar 26,2022 [ VOL 22 , NO 1143]

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