Science & Technology

Microsoft and G42 Announce Geothermal Data Center in Kenya

Microsoft and G42, a leading AI company in the United Arab Emirates, have joined forces to implement a project that involves the construction of a geothermal-powered data center in Kenya.

Microsoft and G42 Announce Geothermal Data Center in Kenya

The mentioned functional object will cost $1 billion. The announced joint efforts of the technology giant from the United States and its Middle Eastern partner are the initial stage of the implementation of a multi-year plan to significantly increase cloud computing capacity in East Africa.

G42 will make initial investments and will handle the construction of a facility in Olkaria, where significant geothermal resources are located, which is a particularly significant advantage in a continent facing large-scale problems in the form of power outages.

The implementation of this project is also likely to become a kind of base for achieving Microsoft’s goals in the sphere of climate. The capacity of the first phase, which is expected to be operational in about two years, will be 100 megawatts.

G42 CEO Peng Xiao, during a conversation with media representatives, said that up to one gigawatt of electricity from the grid would be needed to implement the entire project. The companies have not yet announced how much time is needed to complete the entire project. There is also currently no information on how much funding will be required to fully implement all the intentions of the technology giant from the United States and its Middle Eastern partner in Africa.

Microsoft is currently using cloud computing capabilities to create an environment in the East African region that allows the implementation of Azure products. The technology giant is committed to expanding its ability to sell services in the mentioned region.

Currently, the nearest Microsoft data center for Kenyan customers is located several thousand miles away, in South Africa. As part of the deal with the technology giant, the Kenyan government has agreed to move more of its services to the cloud. Microsoft expects this solution to boost overall demand.

The implementation of all the efforts of the technology giant regarding activities in Africa is expected to result in a complex of data centers that will handle artificial intelligence services and provide cloud computing to consumers not only in Kenya but also in countries such as Tanzania, Rwanda, and Uganda.

Microsoft and G42 announced a joint effort at a time when United States President Joe Biden was preparing to welcome Kenyan President William Ruto in Washington on a state visit. This visit is aimed at deepening US ties with Africa.

The mentioned continent is expected to become a new arena of global competition for the United States. Washington is seeking to counter efforts to expand Beijing’s presence in Africa. It is worth noting that Chinese companies, including Huawei, have invested heavily in the continent. These firms build data centers, Internet services, smart power grids, and surveillance systems.

This week, representatives of Microsoft, G42, and Kenyan officials plan to sign a letter of intent, which was drafted with the assistance of the UAE and US governments.

Microsoft President Brad Smith said that the mentioned plans, in his opinion, are the most important step towards increasing the availability of digital technologies in the entire history of the specified African country. He also stated that his company and G42, by joining forces, will be able to do what they would not have been able to do in separate actions. Moreover, Brad Smith is convinced that the US and the UAE, through partnership, can achieve results that will help bring technology to new countries, especially in Africa.

In April, Microsoft agreed to invest $1.5 billion in G42. The relevant deal was brokered by the administration of the President of the United States Joe Biden. Also, this business agreement is important as an action that contributes to the implementation of the efforts of the US leadership to limit China’s access to artificial intelligence technologies. As part of the deal, Microsoft’s Middle East partner agreed to end its business relationships with companies from the mentioned Asian country. In this case, among other things, the completion of interaction with Huawei is provided. The deal also stipulates that the G42 will use technologies developed in the US. In particular, the company will apply Azure for its artificial intelligence apps.

The G42 consists of teams of specialists who carry out activities in many spheres. For example, they develop self-driving cars and specialize in cloud computing. The company is part of a $1.5 trillion empire owned by Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed Al Nahyan, one of Abu Dhabi’s two deputy rulers, national security adviser of the UAE, and brother to its president.

The launch of the G42 activity in Kenya is part of the efforts of the mentioned country to strengthen its geopolitical clout in Africa. Over the past two years, the UAE has promised to invest about $100 billion in the specified continent. The country is also competing with Saudi Arabia to become a regional superpower in the artificial intelligence industry. The G42 is central to the relevant plans. In Kenya, this company will work on large language models for Swahili and English and will add other African languages in the future. The firm intends to develop artificial intelligence configurations for the agriculture sector and other spheres of activity. Microsoft’s cybersecurity unit will offer regional customers protection from hackers. It is worth noting that during the period of intensive global digitalization, the issue of security in the digital environment has become especially relevant. In this case, the personal awareness of users is also important. For example, an Internet search query such as how to know if my camera is hacked will allow everyone to get information about signs of unauthorized access to the device.

Microsoft will also provide wireless Internet access to 20 million Kenyans, which is about 40% of the local population. Brad Smith said that this intention will be implemented by the end of next year.

Peng Xiao says that it will take several years before a positive financial return is achieved. At the same time, in this context, it was noted that a short-term result is not a goal. Peng Xiao is also convinced for businesses to have a strong foothold in Africa.

Serhii Mikhailov

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Serhii’s track record of study and work spans six years at the Faculty of Philology and eight years in the media, during which he has developed a deep understanding of various aspects of the industry and honed his writing skills; his areas of expertise include fintech, payments, cryptocurrency, and financial services, and he is constantly keeping a close eye on the latest developments and innovations in these fields, as he believes that they will have a significant impact on the future direction of the economy as a whole.