Etix Everywhere is building an international network of data centres, especially in developing economies. Its latest project in Ghana is a
stepping stone to the west Africa region. Sebastian Shehadi reports.
Global internet traffic will increase nearly threefold over the next five years, and will have increased 127-fold from 2005 to 2021, according to the latest Cisco Visual Networking Index. At the heart of this growth are data centres.
Luxembourg-based Etix Everywhere believes data centres should be accelerators for economic and social growth, sources of
empowerment that boost digital transformation. In five years, the company hopes to have developed fully automated and self-repairing data
centre infrastructure and software, according to CEO Antoine Boniface.
Etix believes its competitive advantage is a holistic approach that oversees the financing, design, building and operation of bespoke data centres. Ownership is offered through an unusual variety of models: co-location, joint venture, turnkey and sales-and-lease-back.
The company has already built eight data centres across three continents. In developed economies, Etix Everywhere builds edge data centres – so called ‘frontier facilities’ – in second-tier cities, while in developing regions it has identified areas with booming internet traffic but limited numbers of data centres.
“We expect 2018 to be a year of strategic expansion in the developing markets,” says Mr Boniface. Indeed, the company currently has four data centres under construction in Africa and in Latin America, alongside 11 projects further down the pipeline.
“The African data centre market is growing, with enormous potential. The co-location demand across the continent is increasing two to three times faster than the supply. The boom in internet access will lead to an increasing demand,” says Mr Boniface.
Ghana is of particular interest because it is a vibrant economy strategically situated to provide a stepping stone into west Africa. The country offers an extensive and technologically advanced telecom infrastructure, which is well supplied with submarine cables, mobile network operators and internet service providers. Five submarine cables are landing in the country, offering resilient connectivity throughout the continent and towards Europe.
Etix Accra #1 is a joint venture between Etix Everywhere, Ngoya and Africa Investment Group. Valued at $148m and set to create 89 jobs, it will be the first data centre in west Africa with a Tier IV certification, reflecting the quality of the infrastructure and attracting customers from the entire region. “This data centre is a fantastic opportunity to create new, local digital ecosystems that will drive growth, generate local wealth and provide a more secure and reliable cloud economy,” says Mr Boniface.
The joint venture is already planning to build a second data centre in Ghana to provide a back-up to customers. Co-investment is key to Etix’s strategy. “We always look for coinvestors with a rich understanding of the local market and links to the local community. Their local expertise, combined with our technical knowledge, is essential to our success,” says Mr Boniface.
The unpredictable nature of African power utilities initially presented a challenge to Etix Accra #1’s development. In order to secure uninterrupted supply, the company will build a solar plant next to the data centre, providing clean, off-grid power.
“We want to use solar plants in all our projects for which power reliability doesn’t fit the requirements of such a demanding industry,” says Mr Boniface. For this reason, the company has established a subsidiary, Etix Energy, which finances, develops and operates solar plants. The Ghana solar farm will cost $231m and create 54 jobs, according to investment tracking service fDi Markets