Big Tech Eyes Untapped Cloud Opportunities in MEA Markets

In recent years, cloud data centers and the scalable server power they provide businesses have emerged as one of the most critical infrastructural components of a well-oiled digital economy. From small eCommerce businesses to global enterprises, the likes of Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure now provide essential business services to companies of all varieties.

And while emerging economies were not the first countries to receive the attention of global cloud providers, as the field matures, the biggest players are setting their sights on previously untapped markets.

Learn more: Demand for Amazon, Google’s Cloud Offerings Spotlights Connected Economy’s Unstoppable Rise

But while the very nature of cloud computing means that service users don’t need to be geographically located near the actual data centers where cloud servers are held, relying on physical infrastructures in distant countries is far from efficient, even when the information does move at the speed of light.

As a result, businesses in currently underserved regions in the Middle East and Africa have had trouble accessing the same services as their peers in more developed markets like Europe or the U.S., where a competitive cloud market provides an extensive range of products and services.

The good news is that cloud providers have been upping their efforts to expand their geographic coverage.

In the last year alone, Microsoft has launched a new Azure region in Qatar and expanded the range of services offered in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), while Amazon Web Services has added a new region in the UAE. And just this month, Google announced its intention to launch its first African cloud region in South Africa.

Related: Microsoft Qatar Teams With CWallet Whose Tech Stack Will Move to Azure

The recent flurry of activity has not been distributed evenly, however.

Africa is home to just a handful of the large data centers required to deliver the full potential of cloud capabilities to the continent’s digital enterprises, and all of them are located in South Africa.

Read on: Google Announces New Cloud Region in South Africa

In the Middle East, cloud infrastructure has so far been concentrated in the UAE and Saudi Arabia. But Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Oracle have all announced their intention to open new regions in Israel.

Edge Services on the Rise

While new data centers tend to be built in large urban hubs and require significant investment, cloud providers are able to penetrate less well-connected areas by deploying the smaller infrastructural components known as edge nodes.

Edge services are what allow an AWS customer in Kenya, for example, to tap into the power of cloud computing and deploy AWS tools even though they are thousands of miles from data centers in South Africa and the Middle East.

And data centers and edge nodes are the activity hubs of global cloud networks, fiber optic cables are the nerves that connect the whole system together.

In the past, the work of building and maintaining these cables was carried out by telecommunications companies, but today Big Tech firms have a growing interest in owning or renting them out.

As the demand for high-speed, low-latency communications has exploded, in large part thanks to the growing significance of cloud computing, the companies that provide cloud services have found that existing cable networks aren’t sufficient for their needs.

Starting with its transatlantic communications cable Dunant, which went live in 2020, Google has been an especially active investor in projects that lay down undersea cable networks.

Internet, Cloud Capabilities Define Google’s Billion-Dollar Africa Investment

Most recently, last month the company officially launched the Equiano Subsea Cable which connects Europe to South Africa while branching off at various points along the east coast of the continent.

Among other things, the new cable will allow for the development of data centers and edge nodes in the countries in which it lands, further extending the scope of Africa’s nascent cloud infrastructure.

Finally, as the digital economy gains momentum in the Middle East and Africa, investments such as Google’s subsea cables will be critical in sustaining the pace of transformation and ensuring that entrepreneurs in the region have the cloud capacity to unlock their full business potential.


For all PYMNTS EMEA coverage, subscribe to the daily EMEA Newsletter