data centre EADC Nairobi
Nairobi-based East Africa Data Centre, a subsidiary of Liquid Telecom Kenya. Image: Liquid Telecom via Twitter.

Mettle Solar and Distributed Power (DPA) have announced a joint investment into a solar power plant to power the largest data centre in East Africa, located in Nairobi, Kenya.

Mettle, a Gridworks investee company, and DPA have invested in EADC Asset Co, a company specifically set up to own and operate a 1MW solar plant that will power Liquid Telecom’s East Africa Data Centre (EADC) in Nairobi.

The solar power plant will provide clean, low-cost and reliable energy to EADC, reducing their reliance on expensive and polluting diesel generation. EADC enables cloud service providers, carriers and business to host their critical data, cloud-based services, applications and back-end systems in Africa. This comes at a time when data privacy and data residency are becoming increasingly important around the globe.

Read more:
Bits to watts for a fully connected smart grid
DER much more than rural electrification in Africa
E.ON prepares for massive growth in energy demand for data centres

Gridworks CEO Simon Hodson: “Data centres play a significant part in boosting the digital infrastructure that is vital for improving internet access across Africa. However, they can be very energy-intensive, so it’s important that they can use green, low cost and reliable power. I’m proud that our investee company Mettle Solar, is investing in the energy infrastructure needed to run one of Africa’s fastest-growing data centres.”

CDC Group, the UK’s development finance institution, which owns and backs Gridworks, also provided debt funding to the project through a facility made available to Mettle Solar via CDC Group’s Resource Efficiency Facility. CDC is also a key shareholder in Liquid Telecom – this $40 million equity investment in Liquid Telecom, Africa’s largest independent fibre, data centre and cloud technology provider, is their second investment in the company, following a $180 million equity investment in 2018.

Expanding data centres across Africa means expanding distributed energy provision

This additional investment will support Liquid Telecom’ plan to further expands its pan-African data centre operation business, Africa Data Centres and consolidate its position as the leading data centre operator on the continent. CDC Group estimated that less than 20% of potential telecommunications enterprise demand is being served in Africa, with London having three times more cloud computing power available than the entire African continent.

Liquid Telecom’s development of data centres should boost economic activity by reducing IT-related costs for companies. Increased local capacity should spur innovation by offering affordable data storage and software-as-a-service applications to small and medium-sized enterprises. Additionally, the company’s cloud-based services should help spur the growth of Africa’s tech start-up ecosystems while also supporting the needs of established companies across the continent. All of this potential economic growth would contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals 8 (decent work and economic growth) and 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure).

DPA Africa CEO Norman Moyo: “We are excited to have a DFI-backed company like Mettle as a co-investor alongside DPA. With sub-Sahara Africa experiencing major power cuts, business in Africa are increasingly interested in affordable and reliable energy. We also believe energy to be a fundamental pillar in supporting Africa’s economic development, and this unique partnership is an important building block towards realising our vision of a digitally connected future that leaves no African behind.”