Published: March 26, 2020
Africa and especially the Middle East currently lag the rest of the world in terms of the number of reported cases of people infected with the coronavirus. As a result, many of the countries that are home to the key datacenter markets across the MEA region have yet to implement the extreme measures that have locked down societies in Asia, Europe and North America in recent weeks. Having seen events unfold and government reactions in other parts of the world, administrations are, however, beginning to adopt measures at an earlier stage as they seek to ameliorate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their societies and economies. And while several datacenter providers in Africa have gone further in their efforts to ensure that the lights stay on, their counterparts in the Middle East – where the pandemic has yet to take hold on the scale that it has done elsewhere in the world – are largely operating as if it were business as usual.
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On the other hand, given that MEA currently trails the rest of the world in terms of the number of COVID-19 cases that have been reported across the region, governments are able to take advantage of adopting relatively early measures in their efforts to limit the impact of coronavirus on their societies and economies. South Africa, which has so far reported one of the highest number of active coronavirus infections in Africa, declared a state of emergency on March 15 and is preparing for a lockdown that will begin on March 27.
Keeping the Datacenter Lights On
As with many organizations worldwide, datacenter providers have reduced on-site staffing levels or implemented rotational working schedules. Several have split their operational teams, with some members working off-site but available to step in if required. To ensure service continuity, employees who have been mandated to work from home have been given remote network connectivity. This will be particularly vital for datacenter operators that offer remote-hands services as they are likely to see an increase in clients leveraging this for support during the coming months. In fact, some organizations are anticipating heightened demand for datacenter services as more remote working leads to increased need for cloud and digital services, although this is likely to be tempered as local and global economies fall into recession due the impact of the pandemic.
Up until March 23, Qatar had seen the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases reported across the Middle East, but has now been overtaken by Saudi Arabia. However, unlike Saudi Arabia, Qatar has not reported any deaths at the time of writing. In line with other Gulf nations, the country has deployed 'precautionary' measures such as suspending travel to and from certain countries (including Italy, France, Germany and Spain), closing certain public venues, and advising people to avoid crowds and social gatherings. Although working from home has yet to be decreed as a mandatory government requirement, some organizations across the region are encouraging or advising their employees to do so.
As a result, for many datacenter providers in Middle Eastern countries such as the United Arab Emirates, it seems like 'business as usual' and no one has reported any significant impact so far. While many datacenter operators are still evaluating the situation and some have their continuity plans on standby, the overall expectation seems to be one of a slowdown rather than a downturn, but nothing more than that.
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Rahiel Nasir is a member of the Multi-Tenant Datacenter (MTDC) and Services analyst team based in London. He covers MTDC service providers in the EMEA region, providing insights into the colocation, connectivity, cloud and managed services markets.
Jeremy Korn is a Research Associate at 451 Research. He graduated from Brown University with a BA in Biology and East Asian Studies and received
Aaron Sherrill is a Senior Analyst for 451 Research covering emerging trends, innovation