Helios Announces Pivotal Multi-Country African Data Centre Investments and Hire of Distinguished Industry Expert Large-scale investments in North and East African data centres highlight Helios’ pioneering role in developing digital infrastructure platforms in Africa
16 November 2022. Helios Investment Partners (“Helios”, acting on behalf of funds it advises), the leading Africa-focused private investment firm, is pleased to announce that it has entered into agreements to make two landmark investments: the acquisitions of majority stakes in Maroc Datacenter (“MDC”), a carrier neutral data centre in Morocco and in IXAfrica Data Centre Limited (“IXAfrica”), a leading developer and operator of hyperscale-ready data centres in Kenya. Both transactions are subject to customary closing conditions.
MDC operates in the Rabat metro area of Morocco. Since its launch in 2017, MDC has delivered 100% uptime, providing mission-critical colocation and cloud services for its growing customer base of blue-chip public and private institutions. This high-quality facility will serve as a key building block in a broader Helios hyperscale data centre (“DC”) platform in the Rabat and Casablanca metro areas, serving global hyperscale, domestic enterprise and carrier customers. Morocco benefits from a highly skilled workforce and a large number of addressable enterprises for digital connectivity. These factors, combined with a relatively stable macroeconomic environment and favourable regulatory and data sovereignty regimes, make it an attractive cloud deployment destination.
IXAfrica was established in Kenya in 2021 to capitalise on the soaring demand for internet connectivity from Kenya’s young and highly digitally-connected population, and from the rapid adoption of cloud solutions among the country’s enterprises. The company’s strategic location alongside the Mombasa Road in the nation’s capital, Nairobi, provides ready access to virtually all existing primary internet connectivity infrastructure. Upon full build-out of the Nairobi campus, IXAfrica is expected to establish a leading position in Kenya, delivering over 20MW of hyperscale-ready capacity. Kenya benefits from access to diverse internet fibre connectivity, reliable and low-carbon sources of energy from its power grid, a relatively stable political environment and a constructive regulatory framework.
Helios has played a pioneering role in investing in the development of digital infrastructure in Africa. In 2006, Helios founded the first independent company in Africa devoted to building and operating telecom towers and went on to create additional shared infrastructure businesses across the continent. Following Helios’ lead, the African towers industry has since attracted billions of dollars of equity and debt capital to the continent, creating jobs and developing skills, freeing mobile operators to outsource non-core activities and focus on innovation, and improving access by driving down costs for customers. The increased quality and reach of connectivity in turn has facilitated African innovation in areas such as mobile payments. Additionally, limiting the proliferation of towers and replacing diesel powered generators with greener solutions has had a significantly positive impact on health and safety and the environment.
The next phase of the continent’s telecommunications transformation offers new and significant opportunities in digital infrastructure. Africa’s growth in data consumption is amongst the fastest globally, driven by demand from a young, growing, digitally native population, as well as a strong and accelerating trend of cloud and digital technology adoption within both private enterprises and the public sector. The continent’s DC capacity, a key enabler of the digital transformation, remains severely underdeveloped, and substantial additional capacity is needed to meet latent and future demand. MDC and IXAfrica are well-positioned to play pivotal roles in the digital transformations of
Morocco and Kenya, respectively, and will benefit from Helios’ expertise building world-class, fast-growing, high impact, multi-country, platforms in Africa.
Demonstrating the significance of the digital infrastructure investment opportunity across the continent and reaffirming its commitment to playing a leadership role in the sector, Helios is also pleased to announce that industry expert Guy Willner will join the Helios investment team as Managing Director, Digital Infrastructure in December 2022. Guy is a world-renowned DC entrepreneur, having founded and invested in several DC start-ups in developed and emerging markets over the last 24 years. He is the co-founder of IXAfrica and has been its Chairman since inception; he has also been a Director of IXcellerate UK Ltd since 2011, and served as the CEO of IXEurope (LSE: IXE) from 1999 to 2007.
Guy founded IXEurope in 1998 and oversaw the company’s growth from a sole DC in London to a network of 14 DCs in four European countries, fuelled in part by the successful execution of eight acquisitions between 2004 and 2006, a rapid expansion that resulted in IXEurope winning first place in the 2002 UK Sunday Times Tech Track awards as the fastest growing technology company in the UK. IXEurope was listed on London’s AIM market (LSE: IXE) in April 2006 and that year received the Queen’s Award for International Trade in recognition of its notable growth. In September 2007, IXEurope was purchased by Equinix (NASDAQ: EQIX) for $555 million, and Guy remained as President of Equinix’s European division through to June 2008. He invested in and joined the board of directors of Teraco Data Environments (South Africa) in 2008 and remained as a shareholder and board member until 2014 when the company was sold to Permira.
Babatunde Soyoye, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Helios Investment Partners, said:
“The acquisition of MDC as a key building block in Helios’ broader Moroccan hyperscale DC platform, and the strategic investment in IXAfrica are aligned with our criterion of making investments that have the potential to integrate climate-sensitive solutions into our value creation plans. In both Morocco and Kenya, the delivery of essential infrastructure that is critical to economic growth can be done in manner that is climate-sensitive; from focusing on low-carbon sources of power, to lower intensity consumption of resources, these data centre investments have potential to be blueprints for digital infrastructure’s part in reducing carbon intensity on the continent. The need for lower-cost, lower-latency data delivery has never been greater in Africa; both our Moroccan and Kenyan platforms are expected to be pioneers in addressing this need, and we are encouraged by the prospect of opportunities in other key African markets.”
Tope Lawani, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Helios Investment Partners, commented:
“Digital infrastructure lies at the core of the dual long-term secular trends of demographics/urbanisation and technology/innovation that we believe will power economic growth in Africa over the coming decades. In welcoming Guy onto our team and in making the investments in MDC and IXAfrica, we are affirming our high conviction in digital infrastructure investment opportunities and further strengthening our market-leading sector franchise. We are excited to partner with the management teams of MDC and IXAfrica in their efforts to become the highest-quality partners for local and global customers and to promote the internet connectivity ecosystem in strategically important African markets. We look forward to working with Guy to identify and execute on similarly exciting and impactful investments in the sector.”
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