Asfaw Alemu (right), president of Dashen Bank, and Yinager Dessie (PhD), governor of the central bank, during a tour of the former's new data centre on June 23, 2022.

Dashen Bank has rolled out a data centre for nearly a quarter of a billion Birr. Installed by two local firms, the centre is expected to enhance networking and security systems at one of the country's oldest private commercial banks.

IPCOM Technologies, in business since 2010, built the data centre, while eSafe IT Solutions Plc, incorporated in 2017, installed the networking and security facilities. The two firms were among the seven companies that responded to Dashen's call for expression of interest a year ago. It took them eight months to complete construction and installation works, with the centre having the capacity to store five years of the Bank's data.

It comprises 46 racks, cooling systems, uninterruptible power supply (UPS) units, and generators. A single rack can host over 100 servers.

The centre requires close to 700kw of electric power to operate.

Incorporated with a paid-up capital of three million Birr, IPCOM bought the data centre components and hardware from Chinese tech giant Huawei. The company has previously been involved in similar projects at other financial institutions, including the Cooperative Bank of Oromia, Zemen Bank, and Amhara Credit & Savings Institution. Dashen Bank paid IPCOM 160 million Br.

Founded in 1987, Huawei has had a significant presence in the Ethiopian market over the past decade. It was behind Ethio telecom's data centre launched last year. It is also heavily involved in the state telco's 41 million dollars 5G network.

The data centre business is booming, as several are under development at the Addis Abeba ICT Park on the capital's eastern outskirts. Five companies, including Wingu.Africa, the Raxio Group, and RedFox Solutions, have broken ground on the construction of their facilities in the park. Wingu.Africa, an international data centre developer and subsidiary of a parent company incorporated in Mauritius, is owned by founders from Cyprus and the United Kingdom. Africa Capital Works, an investment fund, holds a stake in the company.

It began developing its data centre in Ethiopia two years ago on a 15,000sqm plot. The company has completed the first phase of its project; the second is underway.

“The market for data centres is enormous,” said Nicholas Lodge, chief strategy officer for Wingu.Africa.

Three months ago, Wingu.Africa signed lease agreements with five companies, including Goh Betoch Bank and the Bank of Abyssinia.

Dashen's new data centre is housed in its headquarters on Sudan Street, across from the National Bank of Ethiopia (NBE). The Bank plans to use its previous data centre around Wello Sefer, in operation for the past eight years, as a backup. It has the capacity to store 100 terabytes of data.

"The previous network system could no longer accommodate the growing transactions," said Anteneh Tadesse, director of IT infrastructure.

Dashen Bank had mobilised nearly 75 billion Br in deposits, recording a 39pc growth. It saw close to 30 branches opened, bringing its network to 454.

Under the management of Asfaw Alemu, Dashen Bank is among industry pioneers in digital banking services. The subscriber base for Amole, Dashen's digital payments platform, was close to 2.4 million by the end of the last financial year. It operates 403 ATMs and 1,340 points of sale (POS) terminals.

Dashen has been using Oracle Flexcube, a universal core banking solution, for the past 20 years. It has been four years since the Bank upgraded its core banking software at the cost of 140 million Br, the second upgrade since 2010.

“We're planning to upgrade again in the next few months,” said Anteneh.

The executives of Dashen have plans to erect an additional recovery data centre in compliance with central bank rules. Two months ago, the central ordered commercial banks to build a recovery data centre, 120Km away from the main site.

Solomon Mohammed, an IT infrastructure expert who has worked in the industry for nearly a decade, applauds Dashen Bank's investment in a modern data centre. However, he doubted the Bank would use the data centre to the fullest.

“The investment and the storage capacity are way beyond its needs,” he said of the 26-year-old Bank, which netted 1.73 billion Br in profits last year, with earnings per share at 471 Br.

Three years ago, Dashen Bank's close competitor, the Bank of Abyssinia, upgraded its data centre at the cost of 100 million Br.

PUBLISHED ON Jun 25,2022 [ VOL 23 , NO 1156]

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