Building Africa’s largest digital infrastructure

Building Africa’s largest digital infrastructure

Wale Ajisebutu, CEO of 21st Century Technologies Limited, uses state-of-the-art infrastructure to offer world-class services to the people of Africa

21st Century Technologies Limited is a 25-year-old, mission-critical digital infrastructure and technology platform company with the singular aim of delivering robust infrastructure and skills to support a new Africa – where technology, science and engineering are the drivers of transformation.

The business was built from the clear vision of creating state-of-the-art infrastructure in Nigeria while offering world-class services to customers in support of critical industry problems through motivated talents and skilled workforces.

Now, as a leader in data centres, towers, power, technology platforms, and payment solutions, the business delivers reliable and secure services, with sustainability at the heart of everything it does. To do so, 21st Century Technologies strives to achieve five critical elements: infrastructure, customers, people, partnership and sustainability. 

Moreover, the business is positioned to become the biggest provider of data centre capacity in West Africa with a total capacity of 75.5 megawatts across Nigeria’s capital, Lagos. This includes 1.5 megawatts from five edge centres producing 300 kilowatts each. These data centre operations span three key sites: Apapa with 12 megawatts, Lekki with 12 megawatts, and Ikeja with 50 megawatts —a site that is still under construction.

With Wale Ajisebutu, Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria and CEO of 21st Century Technologies, we discover the amazing work being done to build Africa’s largest digital infrastructure.

Empowering Africa from Nigeria

Nigeria – where 21st Century Technologies is based – has opportunities, totalling a trillion dollars, just waiting to be tapped into. “With young people and an abundance of resources, Nigeria is home to huge opportunities,” Ajisebutu explains. “We sleep on gold in this part of the world. That’s the way I see it.

“In fact, one in every five people in Africa is from Nigeria, so the only enablement to tap these resources is building the right infrastructure. We decided to build a data infrastructure that digitally transforms the way we live, interact and do business. In Nigeria today, mobile technology is growing at a very high rate, with citizens now enjoying 5G.”

Technology has positively disrupted sectors such as education, financial services and healthcare, which has also enabled the convergence of various industry verticals. For example, telecommunication companies are offering banking services in Nigeria – providing evidence that the environment is evolving. Nigeria has proven to be very dynamic when it comes to technology. This is due, in part, to the Government of Nigeria, which actively supports the sector. 

“We have the best- regulatory body in this part of the world, to be honest,” Ajisebutu says. “And technology business contributes 19% of our GDP. To me personally, that shows there are no barriers. There are no obstacles. You have to determine within yourself to take advantage of the opportunity. And the opportunity is there to be grabbed.”

Five critical elements of 21st Century Technology

To ensure the business is performing to the highest standards, 21st Century Technologies focuses primarily on five crucial elements: infrastructure, customers, people, partnerships and sustainability – the business's core values.

To abide by the first element, infrastructure, 21st Century Technologies is currently building high-capacity, open-access connectivity in Nigeria, which is resilient, reliable and protected. “What we’re building is very compelling,” Ajisebutu explains. “And that's what our customers want.”

The second element, customers, highlights that technology is not the customer's core business, but it is the core of their business. 21st Century Technologies is therefore well-positioned and fully mobilised to offer technology solutions as a service to their customers. “This ensures that our customers can focus on their core business,” Ajisebutu adds, “So, we become core to their business.

“That's our philosophy, and why we have been able to reach over 1,000 companies in Nigeria. We are doing incredibly well, providing services to all of them. Without creating value for the customers, we don't have businesses offering services today. We have to be able to create value. We have to be able to make it very agile and very compelling for them to be able to use the infrastructure."

To accomplish the third element, people, 21st Century Technologies prioritises youth's development. For example, the business assembled and trained youths to rewrite the history of technology, while building the most compelling tech academy in West Africa, opened by the Consul General of the American Embassy in Nigeria. The aim is to train 10 million people in 10 years – to offer technology to the people of Africa.

Sustainability, the fourth element, lies at the heart of 21st Century Technologies. “Throughout our infrastructures, we have installed solar panels,” Ajisebutu says. “Our one-megawatt solar panel powers some of the critical load we have today, and we plan to extend it to 10 megawatts in the near future. Our mission is: ‘meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’ (United Nations 1987).

“We have just acquired 20 megawatts of power plants, and discussion is ongoing to acquire additional 80 megawatts, hydrogen and gas power plants to power our facilities and participate in providing power to the grid, so we take sustainability very seriously. Our goal is to become the first company in Nigeria to reach net zero – we hope to achieve this as quickly as possible.” 

The final element, partnership, is the key to everything the business does. “We cannot do everything ourselves, so we work with trusted partners to ensure we cover as much ground as possible,” Ajisebutu shares. “We select the best partners in the world – those that are pioneering in their industries — to ensure we have experts in every area.”

“Oracle is one of our partners, and I don’t believe that there's another company in this part of the world that understands database software to the depth that they do. We’re also partnered with Schneider Electric –  a one-stop-shop for data centre infrastructures and software – they provide excellent products by excellent people coupled with excellent service delivery, we cannot ask for more. In addition, Siemens is the most advanced power company in the world with local knowledge and a positive approach to the market, to supply the power plant with power that is run by hydrogen and gas at the same time.”

21st Century Technologies is also partnered with Amazon, Microsoft Azure, VMware, Multichoice Group, Super Micro, MIT, Glo, Airtel, MTN, NIBSS, 9Mobile and Orange. 

Values and diversity 

Transparency, innovation and integrity are driving forces behind 21st Century Technologies. For example, the business is building a digital hospital to support operations in Nigeria. “We take our customers very seriously,” Ajisebutu says. 

“We're entering into a good partnership and committing to our goal is key. We don't see challenges. We see opportunities. The greatest obstacle opens to man – as far as I'm concerned – is ourselves. We all face a couple of bumps in the road, but they are just to wake you up.

“We live in an era of exponential growth with technology and the internet at the heart of it all,” Ajisebutu shares. “The global data generated continues to grow rapidly without any sign of slowing down.

“More importantly, poverty is now defined by lack of access to technology, rather than geography. So we must do everything humanly possible to make sure that we build compelling infrastructure in this part of the world. And 21st Century Technologies is at the forefront of that.”

The business, therefore, feels compelled to participate in the fourth industrial revolution, having missed out on the first, second and third. 21st Century Technologies is committed to building infrastructure in Nigeria to build a reference point for technology in West Africa. To do so, the business invests in seven key areas: Connectivity, Data Centres, technology platforms, payments, people, security and power 

“We are building 75.5-megawatt Data Centres. When people question the need for it, I do not listen to their reservations, because I know Nigeria will occupy it at the appropriate time,” says Ajisebutu. 

The business is also powering data centres with hydrogen and gas-powered turbine engines. This facility is used to support the government when helping the population, ensuring life is made comfortable for the citizens of Nigeria. 

“We're committed to this country,” Ajisebutu says. “We will do anything humanly possible to make sure that we provide the necessary infrastructure, the right skilled people and global partnership holding sustainability at the height of it all, to ensure we achieve these goals.”

The future of 21st Century Technologies Limited

21st Century Technologies is not slowing down. In fact, the company is racing to be a significant part of history, through the continuous implementation of board and infrastructure projects – they plan to stay ‘ahead of the curve’.

The business accelerates innovations that will provide support for intensive network evolution and fast-track last-mile assets to digital connectivity, paving the way for a fully digitised future and supporting the digital economy. 21st Century Technologies is therefore investing aggressively to ensure this is achievable in the future.

By implementing bold infrastructure, the business continues to accelerate innovations in the area of technology solutions as well as provide support for intensive network evolution such as; 3G, 4G, and 5G fast-track last-mile access to digital connectivity. Further, they will continue to deliver unique infrastructure services to our customers, vendors and partners, enabling a fully digital future.

Moreover, 21st Century Technologies will continue to build a compelling platform that will help to tackle some of the world’s biggest challenges, spanning AI and quantum computing to healthcare, aviation, logistics and construction.

The business will continue to grow at a rapid rate to become the largest provider of information security solutions, helping customers and partners define the risk in their environment and select the right technologies and solutions.
“Technology has become part of us,” Ajisebutu explains. “We cannot remove technology – it’s become part of everything we do today, and it will continue to expand. Technology is fast becoming a resource-liberating mechanism. More importantly, with our help, technology will support Nigerians to do great things in terms of technology transformation and development.” 21st Century provides value which enables and drives socio-economic growth

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