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Microsoft empowers African businesses

Microsoft has introduced a new initiative to aid Africa’s economic development to improve its global competitiveness

The Microsoft 4Afrika initiative will provide smart devices to young people, bring one million African SMEs online, upskill 100,000 members of Africa’s existing workforce, and help an additional 100,000 recent graduates develop employability skills, 75 per cent of whom Microsoft will help place in jobs.

As part of this, Microsoft announced a new SME Online Hub through which African SMEs will have access to free, relevant products and services from Microsoft and other partners.

As a welcome offer, Microsoft will provide free domain registration for one year and free tools for SMEs interested in creating a professional Web presence.

The hub is expected to initially open in April in South Africa and Morocco and will expand to other African markets over time.

To accelerate capacity building and skills development, Microsoft has established the Afrika Academy, an education platform leveraging online and offline learning tools, to help Africans develop both technical and business skills for entrepreneurship and improved employability.

The 4Afrika Initiative is built on the dual beliefs that technology can accelerate growth for Africa, and Africa can also accelerate technology for the world

Fernando de Sousa, 4Afrika Initiative
 
Training through the Afrika Academy will be available starting in March at no cost to recent higher education graduates, government leaders and the Microsoft partner community.

One of the first offline training sessions will take place with Microsoft-managed partners in Ivory Coast in the coming months, focusing on capacity building in business and technical skills for Microsoft’s partners in Francophone West Africa.

Microsoft’s Huawei 4Afrika Windows Phone 8 and pilot project with the Kenyan Ministry of Information and Communications and Kenyan Internet service provider Indigo Telecom are two initial projects.

“We want to empower African youth, entrepreneurs, developers, and business and civic leaders to turn great ideas into a reality that can help their community, their country, the continent and beyond,” said Fernando de Sousa, general manager, 4Afrika Initiative. “The 4Afrika Initiative is built on the dual beliefs that technology can accelerate growth for Africa, and Africa can also accelerate technology for the world.”

The 4Afrika Initiative will be connected to Microsoft’s network of more than 10,000 existing partners in Africa today, as shown by the following initiatives:

  • AppFactory (South Africa and Egypt): Microsoft is hiring 30 paid student interns to staff the AppFactory — centres to which the public can submit requests for Africa-relevant Windows applications (Windows 8 or Windows Phone). These requests are being crowdsourced for voting, and the most popular ideas are assigned development resources to build and launch the apps in the Windows Store. The AppFactory teams have already built 73 Windows apps and 39 Windows Phone apps, and at full capacity, the teams plan to contribute approximately 90 new apps to the Windows Store per month.
  • Nokia and Windows Phone user training (Kenya and Nigeria): Microsoft has established agreements with Safaricom in Kenya and Bharti Airtel in Nigeria to accelerate local adoption of the Nokia Lumia 510 and Lumia 620 Windows Phones. Through these agreements, Microsoft is funding in-store training for consumers who purchase these Nokia models with a data plan.
  • Female empowerment portal (North Africa): This portal targeted at North African women will launch in March as an offshoot of the MasrWorks IT skills portal. It will provide IT skills training and softer-skills training on topics including leadership, self-confidence and interviewing, as well as the mentorship needed to build a long-term career in technology. The mentorship will be provided via a sustained engagement between Microsoft, its partners, a local NGO and the beneficiaries.

“We believe there has never been a better time to invest in Africa and that access to technology – particularly cloud services and smart devices – can and will serve as a great accelerator for African competitiveness,” said Jean-Philippe Courtois, president of Microsoft International. “The launches of Windows 8 and many other new products in the coming months represent a new era for Microsoft, which we believe will redefine the technology industry globally.”

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