Thought Leadership and Insight from James Wilman, CEO of Future-tech

James Wilman

For this edition of the Datacloud Africa Leadership Summit Interview Series, we spoke to James Wilman, CEO of Future-tech.

1. What are the biggest challenges facing the industry in Africa?

The biggest challenges we have seen are gaining access to sensibly priced finance and supply chain cost assurance.

In developed markets the cost of finance is very low, we commonly see 2% to 5% however we are seeing a range of 9% to 15% in developing markets such as East, West and Central Africa. Investor confidence is increasing but many organisations and, in particular, institutional investment is still wary and this translates to a higher cost of finance.

The other area of challenge is cost assurance and something we jokingly refer to as Africa Tax. We have seen infrastructure products, switchgear, UPS, AHUs, etc costing more, and in some cases significantly more, when sourced from certain regions within the content. It some cases it becomes more cost effective to purchase the products out of region and then ship them in, however this can often introduce uncertainty around import duties and transit times.

This increased uncertainty helps fuel investor wariness, which also influences the cost of finance with the ultimately result of affecting the feasibility of certain projects and digital infrastructure development in general.

2. What are the critical steps needed to achieve in the African Data Centre infrastructure development plan?

Investor confidence driven by political stability and infrastructure delivery certainty. This will then provide sensibly costed finance which will allow a larger number of players to get digital infrastructure projects moving. This will increase competition and drive down cost throughout the entire stack, enabling even more project to become feasible and further drive competition and development. From this point all the elements required to deliver rapid digital development will happen.

3. What are the current trends for data centres in Africa?

Currently we are still seeing quite traditional requirements within the data centre space in terms of technical solution, power density, operational strategies, etc.

What I have seen in many developing markets is that operators leap-frog technologies and advance very quickly. Mobile payment technology in East African, for example, this technology was adopted early, and developed in region, moving faster than more mature markets.

I think the same thing will happen with data centre deployments and technologies. This means future-proofing developments today is extremely important.

4. What will be the main drivers of data growth in the coming decade?

Population and mobile usage. I think it is widely accepted these macro factors will be the primary drivers for the continent’s digital development. The growth will then be driven by content delivery, e-commerce, Government Legislation, Cloud services and all the other services that ultimately end up relying on a data centre or require a digital connection.

Ultimately people, and in particular young people, drive internet use and the Continent has many tech savvy people that want access to digital infrastructure in one form or another.

James Wilman will be at Datacloud Africa Leadership Summit 2018 in Marrakech on 28 September. Meet them there