Microsoft and UAE AI Firm G42 Announce $1 Billion Geothermal Data Center in Kenya

G42 will work on large language models for Swahili and English and add other African languages in the future

By Joseph-Albert Kuuire 3 Min Read

Microsoft and G42, the United Arab Emirates’ top artificial intelligence firm, will be partnering to build a $1 billion geothermal-powered data center in Kenya.

The initial phase of a multiyear plan to dramatically increase cloud-computing capacity in East Africa.


G42 will lead the initial investment and handle the facility’s construction in Olkaria, which has abundant geothermal resources — a key benefit in a continent plagued by power outages and a potential boon for Microsoft’s efforts to meet its climate goals.

The first phase will have a capacity of 100 megawatts and is expected to be operational in about two years.

Microsoft will use the initial cloud-computing power to create an East African region for its Azure products, boosting the company’s ability to sell its services there.

As part of the deal, the Kenyan government has agreed to move more of its services to the cloud, which Microsoft hopes will fuel overall demand.

Ultimately the data center complex will handle artificial intelligence services and could provide cloud computing to nearby countries like Uganda, Rwanda, and Tanzania. 

The companies didn’t say how long it would take to complete the entire project or how much it would cost.

Why This Matters

The continent is emerging as a new arena of global competition for the US as it seeks to counter Chinese and Russian inroads there.

Chinese companies like Huawei Technologies have invested heavily in Africa, building data centers, internet services, surveillance systems, and smart power grids.

What They’re Saying

This is the single biggest step to advance the availability of digital technology in, I think, the country’s history,” said Microsoft President Brad Smith, who has been visiting Kenya, where the company has 500 software developers, for almost 15 years.

“This shows what G42 and Microsoft have the opportunity to do together that neither one of us could do separately. I frankly think it shows that what the United States and the United Arab Emirates can do together that helps bring technology to new countries, especially across Africa.”

Between The Lines

In April, Microsoft agreed to invest $1.5 billion in G42, a deal brokered by the Biden administration in an effort to curtail Chinese access to AI technology. As part of the agreement, G42 agreed to halt its business relationships with Chinese companies including Huawei, and use US technology instead.

The company’s push into Kenya is part of the UAE’s effort to gain geopolitical clout in Africa. G42 will work on large language models for Swahili and English and add other African languages in the future, Xiao said. The company will also create AI models for agriculture and other areas.

Microsoft’s cybersecurity division will offer regional customers protection from hackers and help bring wireless broadband to 20 million people, or about 40% of Kenya’s population by the end of next year, Smith said.

Source: Bloomberg

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Joseph-Albert Kuuire is the creator, editor, and journalist at Tech Labari. Email: Twitter: @jakuuire
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