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Amazon has officially opened its first datacenters in Africa, with its Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud division launching three new availability zones in Cape Town, South Africa.

While Amazon first announced this new cloud region back in 2018, the timing of the launch is notable. Demand for cloud services has surged due to the COVID-19 crisis, with businesses embracing bandwidth-intensive remote working options like video-conferencing and individuals on lockdown consuming more internet-based services.

AWS represents over 10% of Amazon’s revenue, having drawn in nearly $10 billion during the last quarter — roughly 4 times more than Google’s Cloud division, though that includes income from G Suite. Microsoft doesn’t break out its Azure earnings specifically, but the company was the first of the major public cloud providers to open datacenters in Africa, launching two regions in Johannesburg and Cape Town last March, while Google has yet to confirm plans for the region.

Having local infrastructure in Africa could alleviate a little stress from AWS datacenters elsewhere in the world, though the main benefit for Amazon is that it’s now in a better position to appeal to African companies. Putting datacenters closer to customers improves data-transfer speeds and reduces latency.

Today’s news comes after Alibaba revealed plans to invest $28 billion in cloud infrastructure over the next three years, following a surge in usage of its various services during the COVID-19 outbreak. Indeed, many users complained that the company’s workplace chat app, DingTalk, was regularly lagging due to the sudden increase in remote workers.

Amazon now offers cloud infrastructure in 73 zones in 23 regions, and with today’s news the only continent without an AWS region is Antarctica.

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