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Interview: Rack Centre MD believes in Nigeria’s growth potential

May 31, 2017 • Features, Top Stories, West Africa

Ayotunde Coker, Rack Centre Managing Director.

Ayotunde Coker, Rack Centre Managing Director.

In another interview which showcases the innovation and development taking place on the African continent, IT News Africa spoke to Ayotunde Coker, the managing director of Nigerian data center company, Rack Center.

Coker is a business executive with over 25 years’ experience in the ICT Industry. He has international experience across Europe, USA, Asia and Africa as a consultant at Cap Gemini with global blue chip organisations, such as, ABN Amro Bank, UBS, JP Morgan, Merrill Lynch, Swiss Life and The Prudential.

He held the position of Global Applications Director at BP, the global oil and gas major, and prior to returning to Nigeria in 2009, was Chief Technology Officer for the United Kingdom Criminal Justice System, and CIO, UK Ministry of Justice.

On returning to Nigeria, Coker became the Group CIO of Access Bank PLC where he played a key role in the bank’s transformation to a top tier bank in multiple countries in Africa, and has also served as the MD/CEO of Emerging Markets Payments, West Africa.

Following his arrival at Rack Centre in 2014, Coker has gone on to revolutionise the IT industry in Nigeria which resulted in him being voted as Nigeria’s IT Man of the Year 2016 at the Beacon of ICT awards.

IT News Africa spoke to Coker who revealed more about Rack Centre as a business, where they operate and how they plan to expand. He also highlighted the challenges facing operation in Africa but also the opportunities present on the continent.

1. Can you tell us more about Rack Centre?

Rack Centre is wholly owned by Jagal, a  Nigerian conglomerate holding. We are located in Lagos Nigeria, and have been operating since October 2013 with 100% uptime. We are carrier neutral and were the first in Sub Sahara Africa to be Design Certified by the Uptime Institute in May 2014.

We are now the only carrier neutral colocation facility to be Constructed Facility Certified in Africa. The company is now the most connected Tier III data centre in Africa, with direct connection to all five undersea cables serving the Atlantic coast. This means every country on the Atlantic Coast of Africa is directly connected to Rack Centre by high speed fibre. In addition The Internet Exchange Point of Nigeria is also hosted in Rack Centre.

Since inception we have grown exponentially, successfully doubling our capacity in April 2016. This has led us to numerous prestigious regional and global awards in Nigeria, West Africa, Africa and globally.

Rack Centre is proudly the first African company to have won the Data Centre Dynamics awards in the UK, the first African company to be finalist and runner up at the Data Centre Solutions Awards also in the UK, keeping company with some of the most respected global players.

2. Are you operating in any other African countries, or are you looking to expand into other countries?

No we are currently not present in other African countries. However we are looking at other locations in West Africa; this is very much of interest. Given our level of connectivity, we can peer another data centre with Rack Centre while we deliver a broader footprint across the region.

3. What are some of the challenges you have faced while operating in Nigeria?

The challenge has been to create the awareness and belief that such quality could exist in Africa. We have actually been able to engineer our power systems to overcome some of the regional power challenges. We also have a harsh climatic environment given the high humidity of over 90% and temperatures over 35 degrees centigrade. However the sophistication of our cooling systems means we run the most efficient data centre in the region. I am proud of my team at Rack Centre and we have been able to cultivate some amazing local talent; all African to run such a sophisticated facility.

5. Do you see Africa as a largely untapped market?

Yes. Although we have had some economic set backs over the past two years across the continent, we are now seeing a new growth that will be powered by technology. Technology will be a key factor to enable Africa leap frog some more established and advanced economies. This will be the high growth region of the world with 1.3 billion people. Even in other continents, it is about 20% of the population that transform the continent, and that will be the case in Africa. Just in Nigeria, we have 20 million SMEs, larger than the entire population of some European countries such as Belgium. Building Cloud Services in Rack Centre will lower the entry point of computing services to the SMES, transforming the efficiency of the SMEs and the continent. This is certainly an under-tapped market, if not an untapped one. There will be more regional diversity in the key economic regions across the continent.

6. What is the advantage of using your solution?

I would prefer to say the advantage of using the Cloud solutions in Rack Centre compared to other solutions hosted elsewhere outside the continent. Rack Centre’s quality and reliability is evidenced through its achieving the Uptime Institute Certification. A mark of global quality. It is the most connected Tier III data centre in Africa, so we provide high speed universal access locally to Cloud Services. Our customers enjoy our services without the latency of traversing across to services on a different continent. We host our website in Rack Centre, and increasingly migrating customers for foreign web hosting services. The low latency performance is stunning. We are also building local technology capability in the region and creating a technology value chain that has significant impact on local capacity building.

By Dean Workman


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