growing the technology market in Africa
In the next three years, the Microsoft Afrika Initiative aims to “help place tens of millions” of smartphones in the hands of African consumers, bring 1 million small and medium-sized African businesses and nonprofits online, train 100,000 African university graduates (and find jobs for 75,000 of them), and pilot low-cost wireless broadband in Kenya using “white-space” spectrum.
“The whole principle around this investment is to grow the technology market in Africa so it’s much more competitive,” said Fernando de Souza, Microsoft4Afrika’s general manager. “The pace of democratization of Africa has picked up in the last five years,” he noted, pointing to the Arab Spring and political changes in Kenya, Ghana and Nigeria. “We see this unbelievable promise, and we wanted to invest in a commercially minded way.”
Microsoft4Afrika initiatives are distinct from the company’s corporate social responsibility efforts, de Souza said, and meant to combine social and commercial goals. De Souza reports to the corporate vice president for the Middle East and Africa, not the executive responsible for corporate citizenship. “We want to compete in Africa in a fair and respectful way and hopefully win market share as a result,” said de Souza, who was born in what today is Maputo, Mozambique.
For the training and job placement pledge, Microsoft will draw on its experience in South Africa, where the company provides employability skills training to high school and university graduates. Coursework focuses on entrepreneurship, technology and English, and Microsoft has leveraged its partners “ecosystem” – a network that includes resellers, software development firms and startups, among other businesses – to hire program graduates. Microsoft’s new smartphone, which features an “4Afrika” logo on the back and comes preloaded with apps geared toward an African audience, is expected to become available later this month in seven African countries: Angola, Egypt, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria and South Africa.