the new data center financed by the ADB will establish the country’s digital sovereignty

(AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT BANK) – Staccato hammer blows. The shrill sound of iron bars under a worker’s blowtorch, a smell of fresh cement, at the foot of the three-story building emerging from the ground in the Bacongo district of the Congolese capital, a sign guides the visitor: ” National data center construction project in Brazzaville “.

Funded by the African Development Bank, this building with its futuristic architecture will soon be the nerve center for storing and processing all digital data in the Republic of Congo. It will also host the various applications developed or acquired by this Central African country, located in the heart of the Congo Basin, the second green lung in the world.

Soon, Congo will be the only country in Central Africa to have its own data center (digital data storage center). The video conferences that we organize here will, in the long term, no longer pass through a server based in Europe, America or elsewhere before returning to us. Everything will happen here », Welcomes Michel Ngakala, coordinator of the Central African Fiber Optic Backbone (CAB) Project, Congo component.

This project, with total financing of 66.55 million euros (52.47 million euros from the African Development Bank and 14.50 million euros from the Government of Congo), enabled the installation of a linear of more than 600 kilometers of optical fiber on the interconnection axes with Cameroon (341 km) and the Central African Republic (281 km) via the Congo River – a feat according to the Bank’s resident country economist in Congo especially with regard to the sub-river component for the Congo-Central African Republic interconnection across the Sangha River – and the establishment of a national data center (datacenter). Some 13.8 million euros of the project amount is dedicated to the construction and operationalization of the data center.

As part of the Central Africa Fiber Optic Backbone Project, Congo Component, we received funds from the African Development Bank to build a data center. And there we build a building of three expandable levels with a basement », Explains the coordinator, who shows us the different compartments of the future Congo data center.

On the three levels of the building under construction, server, control and supervision, meeting and conference rooms are planned as well as locations for the energy and air conditioning equipment necessary for the proper functioning of the data center, explains the coordinator who indicates that the data center will be delivered by December 2024.

All the data that will be produced in Congo must be stored somewhere. Currently, this data is stored abroad so that we have domain names from here which often end with “.fr” or “.com”, while the domain name from Congo is “.cg “. From now on, we will be able to host all public data at the data center level, as well as that of telecommunications operators, banks, insurance companies and other private companies who want to have it hosted here, including backups of storage sites possible primary sources that they use,” assures Mr. Ngakala.

This project will establish the country’s digital sovereignty because we cannot call ourselves sovereign when our data, even the most sensitive, is stored outside our territory, in foreign countries. », with real risks of misuse, violation or even massive leak, he continues.

The theme of data localization has grown in importance in recent years across the continent, especially with regard to sensitive data. The availability of locally produced data will pave the way for a virtuous circle of local value creation which will be beneficial to the entire digital ecosystem (public, private, etc.) of our countries. These are the beginnings of a digital circular economy which will contribute to low-carbon development of our continent “, assures Samatar Omar Elmi, chief information and communication technology officer at the African Development Bank and project manager at the Bank.

In addition to strengthening digital sovereignty, this project will “ contribute to improving the competitiveness of the Congolese economy in terms of factor cost because communication is an important factor in the development of the economy », Underlines Sié Antoine-Marie Tioyé, resident country economist of the Bank in Congo.

In addition to its strong contribution to the development of Congo’s digital economy, Michel Ngakala sees it as a way for his country to strengthen its digital security by being in control of its data. “It’s easy to hack data when it’s outside your territory. With this data center, we will more easily control the processing and access of data in our country », he promises.

In the same vein, Mr. Ngakala gives the example of the Ministry of Posts which is in the process of implementing a digital identification project for the entire Congolese population, with an astronomical number of data which will be generated and can be stored in the national level and no longer abroad. Other Congo partners are positioning themselves in a complementary manner in other segments to amplify the impact of this project.

At the end of the work, the data center will be managed by a delegate (public or private) who will take charge of the management, marketing and maintenance of the infrastructure.

A leading partner of Congo, the African Development Bank Group is the leading infrastructure financing institution in the country.

In addition to the extension of the national optical backbone and the data center, the Bank has financed several road infrastructures in Congo. It has notably financed corridors and integrative projects such as the Ketta-Djoum road on the Yaoundé-Brazzaville corridor involving the development of an asphalt road of approximately 505 kilometers between Ketta, in Congo, and Djoum, in Cameroon (189 km in Cameroon, 316 km in Congo) and the first section of the Ndende-Dolisie road to connect Congo to Gabon. The Bank is also financing studies for the construction of access roads for the road-rail bridge which will connect the two Congos separated by the eponymous river. She provides leadership in resource mobilization.

At 1er April 2024, the active portfolio of the Bank Group in Congo included eleven projects, all in the public sector, for a total commitment of 411.62 million US dollars. The sectoral distribution of the portfolio is as follows: first, transport (32.7%), governance (29.8%), agriculture (21.3%), telecommunications (13.7%), social (2.4%) %), water and sanitation (0.1%).

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