Microsoft targets Africa’s SMEs

Microsoft Corp. has unveiled its 4Afrika Initiative, through which it aims to actively engage in Africa’s economic development to improve its global competitiveness.

By 2016, the 4Afrika Initiative plans to help place tens of millions of smart devices in the hands of African youth, and bring one million African small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) online.

It also hopes to upskill 100,000 members of Africa’s existing workforce, and help an additional 100,000 recent graduates develop employability skills, 75% of whom Microsoft will help place in jobs.

4Afrika smartphone

Microsoft has teamed up with Huawei to launch an exclusive phone for the African Continent. Huawei 4Afrika, a full-functionality Windows Phone 8, will come preloaded with select applications designed for Africa.

The phone will initially be available in Angola, Egypt, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria and South Africa later in February.

The Huawei 4Afrika phone, which is the first in a series of smart devices designed “4Afrika,” will be targeted toward university students, developers and first-time smartphone users to ensure they have affordable access to best-in-class technology to enable them to connect, collaborate, and access markets and opportunities online.

Microsoft Huawei 4Afrika
Microsoft Huawei 4Afrika

Tech Hub

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

The hub will aggregate the available services, which can help SMEs expand their businesses locally, find new business opportunities outside their immediate geographies and help increase their overall competitiveness.

Microsoft says it will also 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.

Mawingu

The technology giant will launch a pilot project with the Kenyan Ministry of Information and Communications and Kenyan Internet service provider Indigo Telecom Ltd. 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 is called “Mawingu,” which is Kiswahili for cloud. It is the first deployment of solar-powered base stations working together with TV white spaces, a technology partially developed by Microsoft Research, to deliver high-speed Internet access to areas currently lacking even basic electricity.

Microsoft hopes to implement similar pilots in East and Southern Africa in the coming months to further explore the commercial feasibility of TV white space technology.

AppFactory

In South Africa and Egypt, Microsoft is hiring 30 paid student interns to staff the AppFactory — centers 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.

Already, the AppFactory teams have 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.

“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,”said Jean-Philippe Courtois, president of Microsoft International.

Microsoft Infographic
Microsoft Africa Infographic (click to enlarge)

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Microsoft targets Africa’s SMEs