The World Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) has partnered with South Africa’s Liquid Intelligent Technologies to expand data centre capacity and roll out fibre-optic cable on the continent, the groups said in a joint statement on Monday.

The partners said that the link-up with Liquid Intelligent Technologies, formally Liquid Telecom, aims to increase digital connectivity in Africa and support the region’s growing digital ecosystem.

The investment in data centres underscores the rising demand for cloud services even in relatively undeveloped corners of the continent.

U.S. tech giants such as Microsoft and Amazon are already competing with Chinese telecom firm Huawei to set up massive data centres on the continent as demand for cloud connectivity soars as companies save huge costs by renting storage space than building their servers.

IFC’s equity and debt investments in Liquid, which to date totals approximately $250 million, will support the company to grow its hyper-scale data centre capacity in Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa through its subsidiary, Africa Data Centres, the statement said.

“As Africa’s population grows and is increasingly urbanized, data consumption is expected to grow strongly and with this comes the need for secure local data hosting,” they added.

The investments will also support the continued rollout of Liquid’s fibre broadband network, which today covers more than 100,000 kilometres of sub-Saharan Africa.

According to the Broadband Commission on Sustainable Development, sub-Saharan Africa needs around $100 billion in investment to achieve affordable and high-quality broadband access by 2030. It would need at least 250,000 kilometres of new fibre lines to achieve this.

IFC’s latest investment in Liquid follows its investment in the company in February 2021 through Liquid’s bond placement on Euronext Dublin, Ireland’s main stock exchange. The issuance raised $620 million.