Introducing the Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative, a new effort through which Microsoft is actively engaging in Africa’s economic development to build the capacity of African communities to compete in the global marketplace. To do so, initiative efforts will focus on three areas: world-class skills, access and innovation.
By facilitating and accelerating development, Microsoft hopes to harness the power of innovation for Africa and for the world. By 2016, the initiative aims to assist in providing tens of millions of smart devices to African youth, initiate an online presence for 1 million African small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), upskill 100,000 members of the continent’s existing workforce, and support 100,000 recent graduates in developing employability skills, the majority of whom the company plans to help place in jobs.
“This is a multi-year initiative that represents our increased commitment to Africa as we celebrate 20 years of doing business on the continent. The world has recognized the promise of Africa, and Microsoft wants to invest in that promise. As we look forward to our next 20 years, we wanted to explore new ways to link the growth of our business with initiatives that accelerate growth for the continent,” said Fernando de Sousa, general manager of the 4Afrika Initiative. “The goal is to empower every African who has a great idea for a business or an application and to turn that idea into a reality which in turn can help their community, their country, or even the continent at large. The Microsoft 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 Huawei 4Afrika, a full-functionality Windows Phone 8, represents the first step toward encouraging the adoption of smart devices. The phone will come preloaded with applications specifically designed for Africa and is targeted toward university students, developers and first-time smartphone users to make sure they have affordable access to the latest technologies that will give them the capability to connect, collaborate and access online markets and opportunities. The phone is the first in a series of smart devices designed “4Afrika.”
To improve technology access, the Kenyan Ministry of Information and Communications and Kenyan Internet service provider Indigo Telecom Ltd. teamed with Microsoft to deploy a pilot project to deliver low-cost, high-speed, wireless broadband and create new opportunities for commerce, education, healthcare and delivery of government services across Kenya. The deployment, called “Mawingu” (meaning cloud in Kiswahili), is the first time solar-powered base stations have worked together with TV white spaces to deliver high-speed Internet access to underserved areas. Microsoft intends to implement more pilots like Mawingu in East and Southern Africa in the upcoming months to continue the exploration of the commercial feasibility of TV white space technology. These pilots will then support proposals to encourage other African countries to favor legislation that would enable the TV white space technology to fulfill the goal of universal access for Africa.
To empower African SMEs, Microsoft has announced a new SME Online Hub. The hub will provide African SMEs with access to free, relevant products and services from Microsoft and partners. By aggregating the available services, the hub will help SMEs to expand their businesses inside their localities and also find new business opportunities outside of them to help improve overall competitiveness.
To facilitate field capacity building and skills development, Microsoft founded the Afrika Academy. The academy use both online and offline learning tools to assist Africans in developing entrepreneurial, business and technical skills and improving employability.
To aid in advancing common goals and create value for Africans, the 4Afrika Initiative will leverage Microsoft’s existing network of more than 10,000 partners in Africa, the result of more than 20 years of involvement with the continent. Microsoft will also create new partnerships across public and private sectors for support. In collaboration with these partners, Microsoft has initiated various efforts as part of the 4Afrika Initiative over the past few months:
- AppFactory (South Africa and Egypt). The AppFactory is an internship program that enlists young developers, helping them gain fundamental work experience while building fun and clever apps to be published in the Windows 8 store.
- Nokia and Windows Phone user training (Kenya and Nigeria). Through agreements with Safaricom in Kenya and Bharti Airtel in Nigeria, Microsoft is funding in-store training for consumers who purchase Nokia Lumia 510 and Lumia 620 Windows Phones with a data plan. The training reviews the benefits of owning a smartphone; by making the phones better understood, consumers will find them more desirable.
- Female empowerment portal (North Africa). Launched in March, the portal is designed to help women realize their true potential, empowering them to play leadership roles in their communities, develop skills, build self-esteem, and introduce new models for self-employment.
“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. These additional investments under the 4Afrika banner will help define our company’s new era in Africa.”