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Most people have at least a vague idea of what a data centre is. Movies show long, dimly-lit rooms closely packed with racks of humming, blinking computers. Bigger than ‘HAL’ in 2001: A Space Odyssey, more like the Matrix or the villain’s setup in James Bond’s Skyfall, or best of all, Transcendence, perhaps. Surely one of the MAMAAs (Meta, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, and Alphabet) has the mother of all data centres, somewhere. Indeed. Data centres are central to the digital era, and without them, life as we know it is not possible.
Your Google search, Takealot order, Uber ride or Wikipedia knowledge – and of course the telecommunications that make all that possible – work because those orders, requests and transactions are executed, processed and fulfilled in a data centre somewhere. At the last count, there were at least 8 340 data of these worldwide. The biggest market is, naturally, the birthplace of the Internet, the United States, with 2 762 data centres. Next up are Germany (485), the United Kingdom (458), China (447) and Canada (385) – Canada will be explained later in this article. London has the single greatest concentration of data centres (195), followed by Dallas (153) and the San Francisco Bay/Silicon Valley area (151). Then there is Africa …
Africa has more internet users than the United States, but has fewer data centres than Spain. That’s changing fast. On a youthful, fast-growing continent, demand for internet-based services is booming, and Africa’s internet economy is expected to reach $180 billion – just above 5 per cent of the continent’s gross domestic product (GDP) by 2025. Since 2016 demand for data centres has doubled, to more than 250 MW (power consumption is a commonly-used proxy for storage capacity) and at least another 1 200 MW will be needed by the end of the decade, according to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
South Africa is the dominant data centre market in Africa, with 55 of the continent’s 121 data centres, according to Cloudscene, an Australian company that monitors such things. These data centres are mostly clustered in and around Johannesburg (31) and Cape Town (11). Durban has five data centres, Gqeberha two, and there are six others in regional centres such as La Lucia and Secunda. But to put that into a global context, the South African market is roughly the same size as Madrid’s.
Elsewhere in Africa data centres are housed in Kenya (10), Egypt (8), Nigeria and Tanzania (5 each), Morocco and Uganda (4) each, Angola, Ghana, Mauritius and Zambia (3 each), Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Gabon, Mozambique and Rwanda (2 each). Algeria, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Libya, Namibia, Senegal, and Zimbabwe have a single data centre each.
1 The South African market
The major data centre operators nationally are largely home-grown: Africa Data Centres, Business Connexion, Dimension Data, Internet Solutions, Technology Corporate Management, and Teraco Data Environments. Teraco, founded in 2008, is South Africa’s largest data centre provider, with seven centres – in Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban – with a combined power capacity of 75MW. By one measure of size – the number of service providers hosted – Teraco’s JB1 East & West centre is the second biggest worldwide, with 306 clients, after Telehouse London’s Docklands North centre with 388.
The latest South African addition is an 18 500m², R3bn facility near Johannesburg built for international software giant Oracle, commissioned in January 2022. Venerable South African IT company Dimension Data (founded in 1983) and its parent, Nippon Telegraph and Telephone (NTT) commissioned the first phase of its 12MW ‘Johannesburg 1’ data centre in April 2022.
African Data Centres, with nine data centres in South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria, is expanding its capacity in Johannesburg to 100MW of IT load. Teraco is completing its R4 billion JB4 centre in Isando, which will be the largest in Africa with 16 000m2 of hall space and 38MW of critical power load when commissioned by mid-year.
This is a fast-paced industry, and JB4 is not going to hold its crown for long – US-based Vantage Data Centers intends to bring the first phase of a R15-billion, 80MW, 12-hectare campus near Midrand online toward the end of the year. Vantage is a global provider of ‘hyperscale (very large) data centres, with 25 campuses on five continents, and its entry into South Africa shows a growing international appetite for the African market. It’s no longer the province of home-grown enterprises.
2 Defining data centres
Exactly what is meant by ‘data centre’? In theory, any dedicated space within a building, or a building or group of buildings housing computer processing and storage systems and communicating via the internet is a data centre. In practice, and in the context of this article, they are dedicated buildings, or dedicated ‘campuses’.
Data centres grew out of the mainframe computer rooms of the 1940s and 50s. The first purpose-built data centre was a military installation, the United States Army’s Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC), which hummed into operation in December 1945. This vacuum tube-based machine, designed to calculate artillery trajectories, required 170 m2 of floor space and 150 KW of power to process around 5 000 operations per second. It was revolutionary, as it could calculate in 30 seconds a trajectory that took a human ’computer’ 20 hours. One ENIAC thus replaced 2 400 people, but by the time it came into operation the guns of WWII had fallen silent, and it calculated Cold War rocket and missile trajectories instead.
Mainframe computing rapidly went commercial, with industry heavyweights such as IBM, ICL, NCR, NEC and Sperry dominating the age of ‘big iron’ with their enormous computer rooms. But data centres as we know them came of age in the 1980s with the rapid adoption of personal computers and Unix-based ‘client-server’ systems, providing clients who could not afford their own very expensive mainframes computing power far beyond what their desktop computers could offer.
During the ‘dot-com’ boom of the 1990s corporations such as Amazon and Google built enormous data centres, initially for their own purposes, but later providing computing services for other businesses. And they can be enormous: currently, the largest data centre in the world is China Telecom’s 999 999m2 Inner Mongolia Information Park Data Centre in Hohot, the capital of Inner Mongolia. Its square kilometre footprint would hold 5 882 ENIACs, and its 150MW power draw would require most of the output of South Africa’s largest solar farm, Solar Capital’s 473-hectare, 175MW De Aar project.
Data centres fall broadly into two categories: single-user and multi-user. Dedicated ‘enterprise’ data centres serve one organisation, particularly in the financial, telecommunications, industrial and defence sectors. But there are many more ‘colocation’ (or ‘colo’) centres that serve multiple clients, and cloud data centres where data and applications are hosted by providers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), IBM or Microsoft. These colo centres are invariably carrier-neutral (or network-neutral), and not tied to any particular fibre network, thus providing interconnection and redundancy.
In the context of the South African – and wider African – market the main interest is in developing carrier-neutral colo centres, with several of them on a ‘hyper’ – very large – scale.
3 Setting the standards
There is a widely-accepted standard for data centre design and infrastructure, ANSI/TIA-942 (developed as an American National Standard by the US-based Telecommunications Industry Association), specifying efficiency, electrical design, fire safety, mechanical systems, network architecture, physical security and redundancy, in four categories, or tiers.
Tier 1 is fairly straightforward, with limited protection against physical events and a single distribution path, though to comply a data centre must have an uptime of 99,671% (less than 28 hours, 48 minutes of downtime annually). Tier 4 provides the highest levels of fault tolerance, redundancy, backup power and the like. Tier 4-compliant data centres are required to have an uptime of 99,995% (no more than 26 minutes, 18 seconds of downtime annually) and are pretty much impervious to any events bar a meteor or missile strike. Naturally, that 0,324% difference between tiers 1 and 4 costs a mint of money, and certification is also costly. Currently, there are 13 certified colocation facilities in South Africa, according to Cloudscene.
The ANSI/TIA standards are not the only ones that may apply in the data centre sector. The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is an information security standard for organisations that handle credit and other payment cards and systems. International Standard on Assurance Engagements (ISAE) certifications show that an organisation has stringent internal auditing controls, which are important for data security. There are also several International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) certifications around information security management and quality control. Historically, South Africans have tended to favour the EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa)-orientated ISO standards over North American ones.
So, there are data centres and there are data centres. Defining them and counting them is rather subjective. The secretive ones run by intelligence agencies, military organisations, cyber warfare operations and defence contractors are, naturally, elusive. They are being built so fast it’s hard to keep track. This report relies on figures from Cloudscene.com, a connectivity directory.
4 An underserved market
Apart from the terrific perceived potential, one of the factors that makes the African data centre market attractive is the ‘leapfrog’ effect. Much of Africa has sparse, creaky infrastructure, frequently mismanaged by inefficient government or parastatal entities. Erratic power supplies, skimpy fixed-line networks, and colonial-era infrastructure and banking systems have impeded growth across much of the continent for decades. Today’s technology bypasses many of those systems. Cellular and satellite communications and alternative energy sources – and, it must be said, an enormous appetite for embracing change – have allowed investors to leapfrog these hurdles.
South Africa is an example. Fifteen years ago local internet users were pretty much limited to what Telkom (generally referred to by a host of other, less-than-flattering names) offered on its fixed lines – DSL for urban fortunates and dial-up modems for the rest. (This writer remembers, with some pain, an anaemic and erratic Telkom ISDN service that cost more than his car repayments.) Today Telkom remains a substantial player (despite a near-death experience as it came to grips with telecommunications deregulation) but is simply one of many network operators.
The marvels that cellular data, internet access and off-grid power have brought to Africa are hard to understate. Sub-Saharan Africa already has more than half a billion unique mobile subscribers, with twelve countries, namely Seychelles, South Africa, Botswana, Mauritius, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Gabon, Ghana, Mali, Namibia, Senegal, Cabo Verde and Kenya, having far more cellular subscriptions than citizens.
The growth has been continent-wide. Between 2019 and 2021, Internet use in Africa jumped by 23 per cent. That trails global growth: international bandwidth usage in 2021 totalled 932 terabits per second (Tbit/s), a 30% increase on the 719 Tbit/s in 2020. This surge matched a similar increase in 2019. Recent growth in internet usage in the rich world was partly driven by the coronavirus pandemic, and the accompanying surge in videoconferencing, remote working and online commerce. In Africa covid-19 was certainly a growth factor, but not as great a one as simply the increased availability and access to digital technologies.
Access remains uneven, however. Despite a 21 per cent increase in 4G coverage since 2020, around 18 per cent of the African population remains without any access to a mobile broadband network. Just over half of urban dwellers are online, compared with just 15 per cent of the rural population. Access can also be expensive: the ITU reckons that affordable broadband access should cost less than two per cent of the monthly gross national income (GNI) per capita, but Africa remains exorbitant, at around 18%.
Coverage is of course better in cities and towns, many of which also have fast-growing urban fibre networks – and plenty of young people. Africa, particularly the sub-Saharan apart, is a youthful continent, with 55% of the population aged between 15 and 64 – the economically-productive years. This ‘youth dividend’, which earlier propelled Chinese and South-East Asian growth, is one of the factors that excites economists and financiers.
This youth dividend and leapfrogging have driven an explosion in digital services. Africans have been particularly innovative in technologies such as mobile banking, drug delivery by drone, agricultural advice and services and, perhaps surprisingly, government e-services. Kenya’s M-Pesa branchless banking service has become a global byword for mobile, peer-to-peer finance, Uganda’s FundiBots provide robotics training in schools, Botswana’s Deaftronics provides solar hearing-aid battery chargers, and solar-powered robotic traffic cops regulate traffic in Kinshasa.
Across much of the continent, even in the bits that seem perennially unstable, the picture is broadly similar. The potential is so large that investors are upbeat, if not downright hungry. In 2020, investment in the continent’s data centre market was around $2 billion (around R30 billion). That’s expected to more than double in the next four years, reaching $5 billion by 2026, according to Africa Data Centres, one of the continent’s bigger data centre providers. South Africa is expected to account for the bulk of investment over that period, reaching an estimated $3.1 billion (R46 billion).
5 Making the connection
There are many reasons for South Africa’s outsized data centre footprint. More subsea optic fibre cables land here – 13 of them – than anywhere else in sub-Saharan Africa. Together these have an installed capacity of 178 Tbit/s, and another two cables with an additional 280 Tbit/s will light up in the next two years.
One of these subsea cables, 2 Africa, will be the world’s longest, at 45 000km, and will provide 27 landings in 19 African countries when it is completed toward the end of 2023. Using spatial division multiplexing (SDM) technology, which deploys up to 16 fibre pairs instead of the 8 pairs supported by older technologies, it will deliver more than the total capacity of all subsea cables serving Africa currently. Overall subsea capacity serving Africa is tiny as a proportion of the worldwide 2021 total of 932 Tbit/s, but its doubling within such a short space of time says a great deal about future growth.
The first data centres were sited at peering points where internet networks meet or undersea cables come ashore, and substantial clusters developed at places such as the US coastal state of Virginia, Dublin, London, Amsterdam, Hong Kong, Singapore and Tokyo. Access to undersea links still plays a key role, and African data centres are largely in coastal countries with landing points.
Rapid provision of terrestrial fibre networks has, however, changed this traditional siting requirement. Take South Africa – Johannesburg is more than 900km from the nearest undersea landing point at Mtunzini, KwaZulu-Natal – and the SA fibre backbone is substantial and growing, with more than 200 000 km of fibre in place. In addition to the backbone networks of telecommunications majors Telkom, Vodacom, and MTN, major fibre providers include Broadband Infraco (±15 000 km), Dark Fibre Africa (±10 000 km), Liquid Telecom (±10 000 km), Vumatel (±8 000 km); and Seacom (±4 000 km). Seacom is the venerable grand-daddy of the local fibre family, having commissioned the first commercial broadband undersea cable to South Africa in June 2009.
6 Location, location, location
Ideally, data centres are sited not just on network nodes, but as close to their clients as possible, reducing network costs and latency issues. However, there are many other factors that influence location, including energy supply, physical security, geological and climate stability, workforce availability and appropriate infrastructure and services.
Data centres require plenty of reliable energy, and indeed energy consumption is used as a proxy for capacity. South Africa has, by sub-Saharan standards, relatively cheap and reliable electricity. At around R1,25 per bulk kilowatt/hour (kWh) it’s cheaper than Nigeria (R1,44), Kenya (R2,66) and even the global average of R1,92 kWh. True electricity costs are difficult to determine, as data centres operators negotiate rates with local authorities, national utilities or independent producers. South African metros, which derive a fair slice of their income from electricity sales, welcome these energy-intensive users.
In energy supply, South Africa has belatedly entered exciting territory. As of June 2021, independent power producers (IPPs) were permitted to generate up to 100mW without a licence. This long-overdue move, coupled with Eskom being obliged to spin off its transmission arm into a generation-neutral regional distribution net, has energised the local IPP market. The appetite for new projects was evident in the outcome of the fifth ‘bid window’ held by the national Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE), where 25 producers were selected for the department’s bluntly-named Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP) in October 2021. Together the successful bidders will add almost 2 600 MW of new capacity – around 1 600 MW from wind energy and 1 000 MW from solar photovoltaic (PV) plants.
There’s still a lot to be addressed in the SA energy sector, from supply bottlenecks and delays in the provision of suitable transmission and sub-station capacity to complex ‘wheeling’ (energy transmission) arrangements, but a future no longer monopolised by the state’s corruption-ravaged energy utility, Eskom, is bright. Literally. Most of sunny South Africa averages more than 2 500 hours of sunshine per year, with average solar-radiation levels of between 2 100 and 2 300 kWh/m2 a day. Cheap land in the Northern Cape and Karoo, both relentlessly sunny, is attractive, and solar panel technology is cheaper than ever before. Costs for electricity from utility-scale PV fell 85% between 2010 and 2020, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). South Africa will never enjoy the ultra-cheap hydropower that gives Canada, parts of China and Norway an edge, but with the way renewables are going, the gap is shrinking.
For similar reasons – cheap land and diminishing input costs – wind energy is being harnessed at a clip, particularly in the three Cape provinces. Currently, installed solar power capacity is around 6GW, and wind 2,7GW, according to IRENA’s most recent data. Together with the winning bidders in the latest REIPPPP round’s additional 2,6GW, utility-scale renewables will provide around 19% of South Africa’s generation capacity of approximately 58 000 GW/h. That’s a nominal capacity – renewable energy does not work when there’s no sun or wind, which is why fossil fuel- or nuclear-powered ‘baseline’ generation capacity is needed. But the South African private sector is very much alive to energy retention technologies such as concentrated solar power (CSP), which stores solar energy in a medium such as molten salt, and the very rapid advances in battery technologies (much of the development in the latter sector has a local element – it has been driven by the energetic Pretoria-born Elon Musk and his Tesla enterprise).
Eskom’s ‘load-shedding’ (how delightful that customers are seen as a ‘load’) has given South African businesses ample experience in providing their own power, and data centre operators are no exception. They typically have agreements with their primary energy supplier to ensure continued supply during rolling blackouts and have impressive back-up facilities, such as impressive diesel generators and many days’ worth of fuel.
7 Cool it, please
In data centres, power usage is an all-absorbing topic, and the metric called power usage effectiveness (PUE) is practically an object of worship. Energy is needed not just for the racks and racks of servers, but for cooling, lighting, management systems and more. A PUE reflects the proportion of the power used for computing against overall energy demand (a PUE of 1.0 would be the perfect score). According to the Uptime Institute, the average worldwide PUE in 2020 was 1.58.
That data does not tell the whole story; older data centres are by definition less effective. Today hyperscale facilities can dial a PUE down to about 1.2. They do this in part by paying enormous attention to detail. Servers are stripped down to bare essentials – there are no video ports or blinking lights – lighting is by demand, and excellent insulation is essential.
Cooling remains the biggest power draw after the servers themselves, and in some data centres cooling can take more than a third of the energy supply. Being in a cool climate helps. That is one of the reasons why so many US data centres are on the cool Pacific coast, why chilly Canada is the fifth-largest market, and why the Chinese have so many servers in inner Mongolia, where an average temperature of 6°C permits ‘free air’ cooling for two-thirds of the year.
Data centre cooling is a complex technical field with many variables, and is beyond the scope of this article. Broadly, it means keeping to temperatures of between 21 and 24ºC in server rooms, as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible, usually through air-conditioning systems, liquid cooling or a combination of both. ‘Free air’ cooling through low ambient temperatures is, of course, the ideal, but has to be augmented in sunny South Africa. Humidity must also be controlled, to prevent condensation on electronic components, and the server environment kept dust-free.
One of the flaws of the PUE yardstick is that it does not take ambient climate into account. This is fairly obvious in the Uptime Institute’s 2010 regional rankings, where Africa (overall) and the Middle East have average PUEs of 1.79. By a PUE measure, a Canadian data centre cannot reasonably be compared to one in Johannesburg, which has an average daily temperature of 25.6°C and summer peaks of 38°C. Still, South African data centres do very well. The national average across cooler coastal and hotter Highveld locations is 1.5, according to a CAP DC white paper in 2020. In practice, locally newer data centres aim for and achieve PUEs of between 1.4 and 1.3, the envy of many providers in similar climates.
8 Locked and loaded
In the industrial era, assets were tangible and safeguarded in bank strongrooms behind mighty safe doors and thorough elaborate client verification systems. In a digital world, data centres are the new strongrooms. They too have elaborate physical access control systems, including biometrics and constant video monitoring, and patrolling security officials. Thus, data centres are physically some of the most secure facilities to be found. It’s a great deal easier to visit a bank branch than it is to pop into your data host unannounced, and unlike banks, data centres are seldom burgled. The last reported major burglary of a data centre was in 2007, when five thieves posing as police made off with US$4 million-with of servers from a Verizon data centre in London.
But there’s always the lunatic fringe. Last year a 28-year-old Texan was sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment for planning to blow up an Amazon Web Services operation in Virginia, USA. Seth Pendley told the FBI undercover agents he was attempting to buy explosives from that he wanted to ‘destroy 70 per cent of the internet’, perhaps subscribing to an inaccurate but oft-repeated belief that 70 per cent of global Internet traffic runs through Virginia. But then Mr Pendley has form: he also claimed to have been present at the January 2021 attack on the US Capitol.
The greatest threats don’t enter a data centre through the door. They come flickering in through the fibre. These threats are legion. Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, web and application attacks, cache poisoning, phishing, ransomware … criminal ingenuity knows no bounds. Malicious behaviour is not necessarily driven by private financial gain. Governments and their cyberwarfare arms want to confound their adversaries by attacking digital services. These need not be obvious ones, such as military communications and control centres. Simply disabling water purification plants, traffic control systems or power transmission switches can do enormous damage. Witness the cyberwarfare around Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
It’s not just state actors getting into that conflict. The hacktivist collective Anonymous took it upon itself to attack Russian facilities and services, claiming it hacked TV stations to show war footage that obviously the Russian state would not like its citizens to see. This adds a new dimension. In the event of a truce, who does one call at Anonymous?
Regardless of the origin of the attacks, or the motives of the attackers, data centre operators must see them off. Data breaches are, naturally, under-reported. Few people would like to admit that they left the window open or neglected to set the alarm, and service providers are reluctant to admit that their offerings are anything other than outstanding. But that’s another story: data security is a complex, fast-changing field and a massive industry, quite beyond the scope of this article.
9 Fire away
In a building containing thousands of stacked and racked – and hot – servers, thousands of kilometres of electrical cabling and complex power provision and management systems, fire is a concern – but happily a rare event. The Uptime Institute recorded just 11 ruinous fires since 1994, though there have been more than 8 000 reported fire-related incidents over that period. The most recent, in March 2021, was the total destruction of a 2 MW facility housing 30 000 servers in Strasbourg, France, belonging to OVHcloud, one of the largest hosting companies globally. Apparently the affected servers hosted 3.6 million websites, including French, British, Polish and Ivory Coast government platforms. So much for the ‘digital sovereignty’ many nations claim to want.
Fires are rare because data centres have excellent fire management and suppression systems, far more sophisticated than those in other commercial environments. Data storage equipment is very sensitive to temperature changes, so even a small fire can have severe impacts. Fires seldom start in the areas housing servers, ‘white space’, in the jargon. They are far more likely to occur in electrical supply and backup power systems, or in administrative areas.
When a fire is detected, it may be suppressed with water mist or ‘clean agents’, such as inert non-combustible gases. Gas suppression is favoured, as once a fire is extinguished, gas can be easily removed by a climate control system. Indeed, in data centres such systems will usually be designed to deliver effective heat dissipation and gas evacuation in the event of fire. Gas systems also don’t carry the risk of water damage, and leave no residue.
10 Behind the build
South Africa has many advantages beyond connectivity, location and energy. Growth in the South African data centre industry is supported and underpinned by a host of other factors, including skilled, sophisticated and deep engineering, IT and financial sectors, operating in a fairly mature and stable regulatory environment.
Start with the money. Data centres are seen as very attractive prospects by the property investments sector, which is adapting to a post-covid world where shopping centres and office space in a work-from-home world are less desirable, and where data centres – and their relations, logistics and fulfilment warehouses – are very much in vogue.
There are many forms of ownership, from data centres that are wholly owned by their operators, to ones funded by private equity or real estate investment trusts (REITs). Whatever the flavour, South Africa’s sophisticated and deep banking and finance sectors easily provide the huge sums involved and comfortably manage foreign direct investment (FDI) flows.
South Africa has long prided itself on its many outstanding consulting, design, engineering, construction and IT firms, some of which, such as the owner of this site, operate across Africa and indeed the world. There is a deep pool of the skills and expertise required, and overall the construction industry is cautiously optimistic about improving prospects after the miseries of the past two covid-shaped years.
Although South Africans frustrated by their public sector might not always think so, by continental standards the republic does have a mature and stable regulatory and administrative framework. Building plans are passed, servitudes are granted and intellectual property is respected. South Africa is not being quite as nimble as some other African countries in developing enabling legislation and implementing it, and it sometimes isn’t even very good at simply doing what it said it would, as the delayed migration to digital TV and 5G spectrum auctions demonstrate. It remains, however, a stable enough environment overall to reassure investors.
There are, of course, challenges. The travails of the run-down Eskom, and its infamous, frequent rolling blackouts are a constraint not just on the data centre industry but on the economy as a whole. Simply the fact that a data packet transmitted from the southern tip of Africa to Europe and back can take 180 milliseconds may be a mild frustration to high-speed traders. There are also structural problems, including social instability – consider the riots and looting in mid-2021 – poor policing and prosecution practices and erratic or ineffective government policies that might give potential investors pause. But obviously, these are issues that pale before the promise the region holds.
11 The bits that glitter
As this report outlines, the future is very promising indeed, and this continent has long attracted the ambitious and the resourceful. The 1871 discovery of the 83.50-carat diamond on the slopes of Colesberg Kopje led to Kimberley and the Big Hole, and the ‘Rand Rush’ of 1886 led to the founding of Johannesburg. Prosperity flowed from that. Extractive industries remain a significant part of African prosperity, but now there is a new scramble for Africa. This time, it’s often Africans at the forefront.
The raw materials might not be things that you can drop on your foot, but intangible bits and bytes are the new commodities. Just as minerals could not be mined without headgear, power stations and railways, data can’t be ‘mined’ without data centres and all the finance, technology and skills behind them. There’s a new gold rush, and market-makers are convinced of that. You might like to check with your pension fund’s asset managers that they are of similar thinking. You will probably be well rewarded.