The UAE-based artificial intelligence firm G42 is partnering with Microsoft to invest $1 billion in a data center in Kenya as part of a package of digital investments in East Africa, the companies said on Wednesday.

The data center campus in Olkaria, Kenya, to be built by G42 and other stakeholders, will be powered by geothermal energy and run Microsoft's Azure through a new cloud region for East Africa.

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

This cloud region will provide customers access to scalable, secure, high-speed cloud and AI services to accelerate cloud adoption and the digital transformation of businesses, customers and partners across Kenya and East Africa..

The initiative will include four additional pillars that will be pursued with local partners: (1) local-language AI model development and research; (2) an East Africa Innovation Lab coupled with broad AI digital skills training; (3) international and local connectivity investments; and (4) collaboration with the government of Kenya to support safe and secure cloud services across East Africa.

In March, G42 signed an agreement to with Kenya’s EcoCloud to develop a mega data centre powered by geothermal energy.

Kenya is the world’s eighth top producer of geothermal energy and its Rift Valley region has more geothermal power capacity under construction than any other country. The country plans to double overall geothermal power output by 2030.

(Writing by Brinda Darasha; editing by Seban Scaria)