Microsoft to open Africa data centers to seek edge in cloud push

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(Bloomberg) -- Microsoft Corp. will offer cloud-computing services from data centers in Africa for the first time, seeking an edge over rivals in targeting local customers.

The software maker said Thursday it plans to open two data centers in Johannesburg and Cape Town as part of an expansion that stretches across 40 regions globally. Previously companies in Africa had to rely on Microsoft’s European data-center hubs such as Ireland and the Netherlands.

“We’re excited by the growing demand for cloud services in Africa and the ability of the cloud to act as a catalyst for new economic opportunities," Scott Guthrie, Microsoft’s executive vice president for cloud and enterprise, said in a statement.

By moving data centers closer to customers, Microsoft is able to speed up cloud-service delivery and comply with laws that require certain data to be stored locally. The expansion in Africa will allow Microsoft to get a jump on its larger cloud rival Inc.

The availability of cloud services from within Africa will spur entrepreneurship and fuel business growth, Guthrie said. Microsoft will sell Azure computing power and Office 365 internet-based apps from South Africa starting in 2018, the company said.

African customers using Microsoft’s cloud include Standard Bank Group Ltd., one of Africa’s largest lenders. “We greatly value Microsoft’s commitment to invest in cloud services delivered from Africa,” Standard Bank Chief Information Officer Brenda Niehaus said in the statement.

--With assistance from Dina Bass and Aarti Bhana

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