The 30 Most Creative CEOs of 2018

Ayotunde Coker: Transforming African Economies Through World-Class Technology

Ayotunde Coker

The MD/CEO of Nigerian-based Rack Centre firm, Ayotunde Coker reckons creativity as a characteristic that enables a person or a group of people to develop and turn imaginations and original ideas into reality. In some instances, creativity is forced by circumstances or pressure to innovate. He further believes that creativity isn’t always about originality, instead a different take on ideas to arrive at an outcome-driven innovation. Moreover, creative people tend to think laterally, are persistent in their approach, and also seek and collate ideas from previous events, and other people.

With a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of South Wales sponsored by Shell Petroleum, Ayotunde took his first job as a Quality Management Engineer at a manufacturing company in Britain, focusing on new quality techniques which have morphed over time into quality and organisation transformation techniques now called 6Sigma. He later majored in award-winning postgraduate in Manufacturing Systems Engineering from the Cranfield University, sponsored by Ford of Europe. Following that degree, Ayotunde joined the Ford of Europe IT and commenced his IT career. In terms of professional appointments, Ayotunde has served as a Global Applications Director at BP, and prior to returning to Nigeria, he was the CTO for the UK Criminal Justice and Chair, UK Government Enterprise Architecture Board. In Nigeria, he was the Group CIO of Access Bank PLC and also served as the MD/CEO of Emerging Markets Payments, West and Central Africa.

Ayotunde has over 30 years of international experience across Europe, USA, Asia and Africa with global blue-chip organisations such as Cap Gemini, M&C Saatchi and The Prudential. At Rack Centre, Ayotunde has laid the foundation and leadership context. Furthermore, the CEO of Rack Centre credits his illustrious leadership team for supporting and strengthening his ideas and future goals.

Story of Rack Centre’s Inception

It all began when a major, Nigerian-based conglomerate group; Jagal envisioned the prerequisites based on the population of Nigeria and market indicators, such as the growing number of Internet users and mobile phone subscribers, that the demand for data will skyrocket over the coming years. With land at its disposal at an ideal location for a data centre in a private estate within an industrial area, well served by fibre networks and 30m above sea level, it embarked on setting up Rack Centre as colocation business.

Ayotunde joined Rack Centre six months after its launch to set the momentum for establishing and growing the business. However, as the famous quote hints that the road to success is not made up of bed of roses, Ayotunde and Rack Centre too, faced major challenges and gins, with the economic recession and commodity price induced slow-down in Africa. In spite of these setbacks, Rack Centre continued to develop into a market leader in West Africa with global repute and significant innovations in its value proposition and market offerings. On a bright side, things have now turned around with the recovery across Africa, in turn playing a major role in changing mindsets of companies to adopt colocation and Cloud services.

Today, there is an inclination to colocation and cloud services as companies are under pressure to spend scarce capital on core business, as cost of capital in Africa is notoriously high. Crusading and defeating these initial challenges have not only made Ayotunde and his team stronger but also made them more inclined towards creativity and innovation on all turfs.  Ayotunde notes that ‘in our industry, the innovation and creativity cycle is incredibly short’.

Rack Centre: West Africa’s Premium Data Centre

Incepted in 2012 and commencing operations in 2013, Rack Centre is 100% owned by Jagal, a Nigerian conglomerate holding that operates leading energy businesses and manages a diverse portfolio of investments. Rack Centre provides colocation and hosting services, a cloud exchange, hosting leading services for web hosting, Cloud along with Content Distribution Networks. These services are delivered in the first and only carrier-neutral colocation facility in Africa to be Constructed Facility Certified by the Uptime Institute. With direct connection to all five undersea cables serving the Atlantic coast of Africa, and 27 carriers, telcos and ISPs directly connected, Rack Centre has developed into the most connected, Tier III certified data centre in Africa. Every country on the Atlantic coast of Africa is directly connected to Rack Centre, thereby making it the ideal location for providing pan Africa services.

Rack Centre has also achieved numerous global accolades since its launch. To name a few, it was a finalist in four different categories over last three years at the Data Centre Dynamics Awards in the UK, subsequently winning in 2015 and winner at the Data Cloud Awards in Monaco, having been a finalist for two categories in 2018. It has also been named as the ‘Infrastructure Company of the Year’ in Nigeria for four years in a row.  Ayotunde was recently awarded the Africa Trailblazer accolade, an award given to an individual globally by the Uptime Institute.

Rack Centre currently has 750kW of capacity expanding to 1.5MW in the next few months, followed by another expansion to 3.7MW.  At the current location, Rack Centre can expand to 9MW of IT power and 3000 racks. However, the premium data centre is embarking on its African expansion to other locations across West Africa and the rest of the continent.

Ayotunde’s Take on Raising the Bar of Company Standards

“Rack Centre has demonstrated the track record of setting the quality bar in the industry. We are the only truly carrier neutral data centre company in Africa to be certified at Tier III certification of constructed facility. Innovation and creativity is a way of life for us, and we have the reputation for setting the strategic narrative in our market. Our customer satisfaction surveys have always indicated over 95% above expectation satisfaction.”