REDMOND, Washington — As Microsoft celebrates 20 years of business in Africa, the company is showing a commitment to the growth of the continent. Microsoft has started the 4Afrika Initiative, which focuses on 3 areas of development: world-class skills, access and innovation. This new effort will allow Microsoft to actively engage in Africa’s economic development to improve its participation in the world market.
Historically, corporations have run extractive programs in Africa, through which basic materials are taken from the continent and brought to the international market. Africa has long been thought of as the bottom of the food chain, rather than a market for real investments. Microsoft, however, has created a project unlike most corporate philanthropy programs. These investments in African human capital will help multinational corporations recognize that Africa can provide more than just raw materials. The strategic campaign will help discover and galvanize a largely untapped market.
The initiative’s areas of focus will help African youth, developers, entrepreneurs, and business and civic leaders with a great idea for an application or business. Turning ideas into a reality will help communities, countries, or even the continent at large. The Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative is centered on the belief that technology can fuel growth for Africa, and Africa can in turn accelerate technology for the world.
The first area of focus, world-class skills, is about Microsoft’s plans to develop a sustainable, world-class education platform, online and offline, to help Africans develop the skills needed for entrepreneurship and improved employability. Microsoft has therefore launched the Afrika Academy, which will provide recent university graduates with the skills needed to help them secure jobs in the Microsoft ecosystem of partners and customers. Microsoft partners are provided with continued business and technical training related to new products and platforms to keep them up-to-date on relevant market trends. For government leaders, the Academy works with a number of African education institutions to expand the ‘Schools of Government’ curriculum. Established in 2008, the curriculum helps train African policy makers on effective policy makers related to current technology issues such as data privacy and white spacing.
Access to technology, the next area of focus, is based on the idea that smart devices and cloud services will be key in accelerating African competitiveness. The 4Afrika Initiative will help to provide affordable access to smart devices, including PCs, slates, phones, for young Africans. Microsoft is also working to expand Internet access across Kenya and beyond.
Lastly, Microsoft wishes to help ignite African innovation for the continent and the world. The company is working closely with African developers to further the development of Windows applications by, and for, Africans. By investing in developers, Microsoft is enabling them to get access to mentorship, technology, connections, and go-to-market support they need to thrive.
Today, Microsoft has 22 offices in 19 of the 54 countries of Africa. By 2016, the 4Afrika Initiative plans to place tens of millions of smart devices in the hands of African youth, bring 1 million African small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) online, further train 100,000 members of the African workforce, and help another 100,000 recent graduates develop the skills needed for employment, 75 percent of whom Microsoft will help place in jobs. According to Fernando de Sousa, general manager, 4Afrika Initiative, “The world has recognized the promise of Africa, and Microsoft wants to invest in that promise.” These investments through 4Afrika will help define Microsoft’s new era in Africa.
– Ali Warlich
Sources: Microsoft, Forbes