Microsoft and G42, the leading artificial intelligence firm from the United Arab Emirates, have announced a partnership to establish a $1 billion geothermal-powered data center in Kenya. This project marks the beginning of a multiyear plan to significantly expand cloud-computing capacity in East Africa.

Project Details

  • Investment and Construction: G42 will spearhead the initial investment and oversee the construction of the facility in Olkaria, leveraging the region’s rich geothermal resources. This energy source is crucial in a continent frequently affected by power outages and supports Microsoft’s climate goals.
  • Initial Phase: The first phase will deliver a capacity of 100 megawatts and is expected to be operational within two years.
  • Microsoft’s Role: Microsoft will utilize the initial cloud-computing power to establish an East African region for its Azure products, enhancing its service offerings in the region.
  • Government Involvement: The Kenyan government has agreed to transition more of its services to the cloud, which is anticipated to drive demand for Microsoft’s cloud services.

The data center will eventually support artificial intelligence services and cloud computing for neighboring countries, including Uganda, Rwanda, and Tanzania. However, the companies have not disclosed the total duration or cost of the entire project.

The initiative is part of a broader effort by the United States to counter Chinese and Russian influence in Africa. Chinese firms like Huawei Technologies have made significant investments in the continent, including building data centers, internet services, surveillance systems, and smart power grids.

Microsoft has made a strategic investment of $1.5 billion in G42, aimed at restricting Chinese access to cutting-edge AI technology. As part of this agreement brokered by the Biden administration, G42 has committed to severing ties with Chinese firms such as Huawei and transitioning to utilizing technology from the United States. This significant partnership is in line with the UAE’s broader agenda to strengthen its geopolitical influence in Africa.

G42’s expansion into Kenya is intended to bolster its presence on the continent, with plans to develop expansive language models for Swahili and English, followed by other African languages in the future. Additionally, G42 aims to tailor AI models for various sectors, particularly agriculture, as part of its strategy.

Furthermore, Microsoft’s cybersecurity division will play a crucial role in providing regional protection against cyber threats in Kenya. Notably, the partnership also aims to provide wireless broadband access to approximately 40% of the Kenyan population, reaching around 20 million individuals by the conclusion of the upcoming year.

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