Microsoft has announced a milestone moment for its cloud aspirations with the news that it’s launching its very first data centers in Africa.

Beginning in 2018, Microsoft will operate its range of cloud services — including Azure, Office 365, and Dynamics 365 — from data centers located in Cape Town and Johannesburg.

The overarching benefit of offering local data center infrastructure is lower latency — customers in the region should experience much faster cloud services, as the data has less distance to travel between a customer’s premises and the data center.

Microsoft has been slowly transitioning into becoming a cloud company, and its recent financials indicate that it’s on the right trajectory. As things stand, Microsoft has myriad cloud regions across North America, Europe, and Asia, with a smattering in Australasia and Latin America. The Middle East and Africa were conspicuously absent in Microsoft’s lineup, so today’s news is a notable step forward for the company.


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Rivals Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google have yet to announce definitive plans to launch data centers in Africa, while IBM was the first of the major cloud providers to offer data center infrastructure when it opened a hub in Johannesburg last year.

An additional benefit to offering local data centers is that Microsoft will be able to cater to any “data sovereignty” concerns, since digital data is subject to the laws of the region in which it’s stored.

“This announcement brings us to 40 cloud regions around the world — more than any other cloud provider — and helps organizations and people from Cairo to Cape Town accelerate their journey to cloud computing,” noted Scott Guthrie, executive vice president for Microsoft’s cloud and enterprise group. “This new investment is also a major milestone in our mission to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more, part of our ongoing effort to create a cloud for global good.”

So rather than having to route data transfers to the nearest servers, which have likely been in Southwest Asia or Europe, customers in Africa will be able to access the new regions in South Africa. That said, companies located in North Africa, at the opposite end of the continent, may still be better off using data centers in Europe, due to their greater proximity.

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