Home Technology Microsoft and G42’s Kenya Project Raises Security Concerns

Microsoft and G42’s Kenya Project Raises Security Concerns

The $1 billion geothermal data center has been flagged by US officials over national security concerns.

By Inc.Arabia Staff
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Microsoft and G42’s $1 billion geothermal data center in Kenya has been flagged over national security concerns, bringing the project under investigation by US officials. [1]

The project, which was first announced in May, includes a package of digital investments in Kenya as part of an initiative with Kenya’s Ministry of Information, Communications, and the Digital Economy. The package includes a geothermal energy-powered data center in Olkaria, Kenya, which will be built by the UAE's G42 and partners. The data center will run on Microsoft Azure through a newly established East Africa Cloud Region, which is slated to be completed within 24 months of signing the agreements. 

The project will provide secure, high-speed cloud and AI services, accelerating cloud adoption and digital transformation for businesses, customers, and partners across Kenya and East Africa.

The initiative includes four other pillars, including local-language AI model development and research, the establishment of an East Africa Innovation Lab and broad AI digital skills training, international and local connectivity investments, and collaboration with the Kenyan government to support safe and secure cloud services in East Africa. [2]

The project is seen as an opportunity to expand the US presence in Africa and Central Asia, where China has a strong foothold, leveraging Microsoft's technology and the UAE’s regional ties.

In April of this year, the UAE's Ministry of Investment inked an agreement with Kenya's Ministry of Information, Communications, and the Digital Economy to explore investments in digital infrastructure and artificial intelligence services in Kenya, including the development of data center facilities boasting a collective capacity of up to 1,000 megawatts. The agreement includes the establishment of a digital corridor to faciltiate data exchange, hosting, processing, and transmission, between the two countries. 

Microsoft and G42 forged a partnership in April when Microsoft invested $1.5 billion in G42 to accelerate AI development and global expansion, as well as to limit collaboration on AI between G42 and China. Officials who are skeptical that G42 has completely cut ties with China have flagged the Kenya project as a potential national security threat. This, coupled with Washington’s recent criticism of Microsoft’s cybersecurity protocols, has raised questions about the security of the project.

The US has slowed the sale the Nvidia’s high-volume AI semiconductor chips to the GCC on the back of concerns about collaborations between Gulf states and China.

For the Kenya project to proceed, it will require the approval of the US Department of Commerce. Bloomberg reports that Microsoft executives have said that the agreement has safeguards to protect its technology and prevent it from being used by Chinese entities to train AI systems. How Microsoft intends to secure chips in the data centers is still unclear, although Bloomberg has speculated that they may place them in a restricted-access area, put them on a kill switch, or have the operation run remotely from the US.

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