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Amazon launches data centre operations in South Africa

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* Amazon will have three data centre clusters in Cape Town

* Service will allow clients to store, retain data in South Africa

* Steps up regional data centre race with Microsoft, Huawei

JOHANNESBURG, April 22 (Reuters) - Amazon Web Services (AWS), the cloud computing platform of Amazon.com Inc, said on Wednesday it has launched its data centre operations at three locations in Cape Town, South Africa, setting up its first "AWS Africa region".

The company defines a "region" as a combination of two or more physical data centre clusters, which Amazon says helps its clients store data and run applications, provide faster response and have content back-up.

The move steps up Amazon's efforts to outsmart rivals. Microsoft Corp's Azure cloud platform and Chinese hardware major Huawei have already been building data centres in South Africa.

"Starting today, developers, startups, and enterprises, as well as government, education, and non-profit organizations can run their applications and serve end-users in Africa," Amazon said in a statement. The service will now allow clients to store data locally and retain complete ownership of their content and data, it said.

Microsoft's Azure, Amazon's closest rival in cloud computing, was the first major company to set up data centres in South Africa - one in Cape Town and the second in Johannesburg - in 2019.

Chinese rival Huawei said last year that it would set up two data centres in South Africa and is in discussion with local partners.

Amazon's AWS posted around $10 billion of revenues for the quarter that ended in December 2019. Amazon also operates its on-demand video service in South Africa but does not offer its online shopping in the region. (Reporting by Promit Mukherjee Editing by Peter Graff)