Equinix Extends Carrier-Neutral Digital Infrastructure to Africa

The MainOne acquisition marks the beginning of our mission to build a digital future in Nigeria and beyond

Judith Gardiner
Funke Opeke
Equinix Extends Carrier-Neutral Digital Infrastructure to Africa

In December of last year, Equinix announced our intent to acquire MainOne, a leading data center and connectivity solutions provider in West Africa. Today, we are proud to announce that acquisition is complete and are taking a moment to celebrate this important milestone for both our companies.

This acquisition is the first step in Equinix’s long-term strategy to extend our carrier-neutral digital infrastructure platform and global connectivity to Africa, all playing a vital part in accelerating digital maturity and reducing the digital divide across the continent.

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A serious looking young man in spectacles is busy on a computer at night lit only by the monitor.

MainOne has built an impressive platform for its customers, including:

  • More than 64,000 gross square feet (5,945 square meters) of space across four operational data centers.
  • More than 570,000 square feet (52,954 square meters) of land for future expansions.
  • The MainOne subsea cable network, stretching 7,000 km between Nigeria and Portugal.
  • 1,200 km of terrestrial metro-fiber networks across Nigeria.

MainOne Data Center in Lagos

West Africa is making great strides in digital transformation, but there is still more to be done

West Africa, and Nigeria in particular, is emerging on the world stage as an innovative, dynamic region in the global digital economy. Nigeria has both the largest population and the largest economy of any country in Africa. With approximately 142 million active internet subscribers[1], representing over 23% of all internet users across the continent, it also has nearly limitless opportunity for expansion of digital services. However, one hurdle the country must overcome in order to achieve full digital transformation is to grow its investments in digital infrastructure.

In “Moving Toward an Interconnected Africa: the 80/20 initiative,”[2] the Internet Society (ISOC) ranks the digital maturity of different African countries based on what percentage of internet traffic is exchanged locally. By this measure, Nigeria has emerged as one of Africa’s digital success stories. Between 2012 and 2020, the country went from about 30% localized traffic to about 70% localized traffic. Over that same period, the number of internet users and total volume of internet traffic also increased dramatically.

Despite the steps Nigeria has made toward digital maturity, there remains room for improvement because Nigeria did not achieve the “80/20” goal set by ISOC: 80% of traffic exchanged locally and only 20% internationally. The country exchanges about 1.7 Tbps of internet traffic internationally, with about three-quarters of that amount exchanged in Europe. This inevitably leads to high latency. This latency could prevent Nigerian businesses from applying the latest digital technologies—such as 5G and artificial intelligence—in their products and services. For this reason, further investment in local digital infrastructure is a key enabler for digital acceleration in Nigeria.

Source: TeleGeography[3]

By supporting the growth and maturity of digital infrastructure in Nigeria, we believe the Equinix acquisition of MainOne could be transformational across several different sectors of the Nigerian economy, including financial services and content and digital media.

Nigerian fintechs step in to fill the banking gap

The financial sector is one of the areas being rapidly transformed with efforts to expand financial inclusion. Of the adult population in Nigeria, only 45% have an account with a traditional bank, 20% access financial services through more informal methods, while the remainder are completely unbanked.

In recent years, Nigerian fintechs have received the most foreign direct investment outside the Oil and Gas sector.  These nimble, digital-first companies aim to fill the gaps in the traditional banking system, often by providing services that mix traditional Nigerian practices with the latest digital technologies. For instance, PiggyVest was founded on the idea of digitizing the “kolo,” a wooden box often kept in Nigerian homes to promote regular saving. The company gives customers a more convenient, automated approach to kolo savings, directly from their smartphones.[4]

This demonstrates how the success of Nigeria’s fintech sector can create a ripple effect that echoes in other parts of the economy: accessing new financial services helps businesses improve their operations and fund innovations that would have otherwise been out of reach. Equinix and MainOne are dedicated to working with Nigerian fintechs to access the digital infrastructure required to scale up their operations to offer more and better financial services to end users in more places.

Digital maturity creates new opportunities in content and digital media

Nigeria has one of the world’s largest and fastest-growing media and entertainment industries. The country’s film industry, known globally as “Nollywood,” is the second-most prolific in the world, boasting about 2,500 productions annually. At about $660 million, the film industry alone contributed 2.3% of the country’s total GDP in 2021.[5] How that content is distributed, both within Nigeria and to the Nigerian diaspora abroad, is changing along with the growing digital maturity of the country.

As local and international companies scramble to get into the dynamic Nigerian content and digital media (CDM) space, they often find themselves having to overcome digital infrastructure limitations. IrokoTV, a streaming service focused specifically on Nollywood content, is an example of a MainOne customer. By expanding digital infrastructure in more places throughout the country, Equinix and MainOne can help CDM companies maximize the amount of content consumed and optimize the quality of the experience. They can achieve this by shortening the distance data travels to reach consumers—no matter where those consumers are. This reduces latency and makes it easier for Nigerians to access the content they want, when and where they want it.

Equinix and MainOne are dedicated to…helping Nigerian fintechs access the digital infrastructure they need to offer more and better financial services to end users in more places.”

Equinix is here to expand digital infrastructure in Africa—now and into the future

At Equinix, we are committed to supporting and learning from local partners, while also providing African businesses access to leading digital services from a global ecosystem of thousands of cloud, network and IT service providers. Our leading portfolio of interconnection services can help users connect with partners and customers around the world, quickly and securely.

We aim to bring this greater degree of global connectivity to Africa through Platform Equinix, which is now available in more than 66 metros across six continents.

To learn more about our vision for globally distributed infrastructure, and how it will play into our long-term strategy in Africa, read the Platform Equinix vision paper today.

 

 

[1] Nigerian Communications Commission

[2] Internet Society, “Moving Toward an Interconnected Africa: The 80/20 Initiative”. Author: Michael Kende. July 2021.

[3] TeleGeography GlobalComms Database Service

[4] WIRED, “Nigeria is quietly rewriting fintech’s rulebook”. Author: Kiki Mordi. May 2021.

[5] International Trade Administration, “Nigeria – Country Commercial Guide: Media and Entertainment”. Last updated October 2021.

Equinix and MainOne can help CDM companies maximize the amount of content consumed and optimize the quality of the experience.”
Judith Gardiner
Judith Gardiner Vice President, Growth and Emerging Markets
Funke Opeke
Funke Opeke Founder and CEO, MainOne an Equinix Company