Microsoft introduces 4Afrika Initiative


Accra, Feb. 7, GNA - Microsoft Corporation has rolled out the Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative, a new effort through which the company will actively engage in Africa's economic development to improve its global competitiveness.

By 2016, the Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative is expected to help place tens of millions of smart devices in the hands of African youth, bring one million African small and medium enterprises (SMEs) online, up-skill 100,000 members of Africa's existing workforce, and help an additional 100,000 recent graduates develop skills for employability, 75 per cent of which Microsoft will help place in jobs.

This was contained in a release copied to the Ghana News Agency (GGA) in Accra on Thursday.

It quoted Fernando de Sousa, General Manager, Microsoft 4 Afrika Initiative as saying: 'The world has recognized the promise of Africa, and Microsoft wants to invest in that promise. 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.

'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', he added.

The release said as a first critical step towards increasing the adoption of smart devices, Microsoft and Huawei would be introducing the Huawei 4Afrika - a full functionality Windows Phone 8 which would come pre-loaded with select applications designed for Africa.

It said the phone would initially be available in Angola, Egypt, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria and South Africa later in February.

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

It said Microsoft also announced the deployment of a pilot project with the Kenyan Ministry of Information and Communications and Kenyan Internet Service Provider, Indigo Telecom Limited to improve technology access and to deliver low-cost, high-speed, wireless broadband and create new opportunities for commerce, education, healthcare, and delivery of government services across Kenya.

The release said the deployment is called 'Mawingu,' - Kiswahili for cloud.

'It is the first deployment of solar-powered base stations 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', it said.

Microsoft hopes to implement similar pilots in East and Southern Africa in the coming months to further explore the commercial feasibility of white space technologies. The pilots will be used to encourage other African countries to accelerate legislation that would enable the white spaces technology to deliver on the promise of universal access for the African Continent.'

The release said to help empower African SMEs, Microsoft announced a new online hub through which African SMEs would have access to free, relevant products and services from Microsoft and other partners.

'The hub will aggregate the available services which can help them expand their business locally, find new business opportunities outside their immediate geography, and help increase their overall competitiveness', it said.

'As a 'welcome offer,' Microsoft will provide free domain registration for the period of one year and free tools for qualifying SMEs interested in creating a professional web presence. The hub is expected to open in April initially in South Africa and Morocco and will expand to other African markets over time.'

It added that Microsoft had established the Afrika Academy, an education platform leveraging both online and offline learning tools, to help Africans develop both technical and business skills for entrepreneurship and improved employability.

The release said that training through the Afrika Academy would be made 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 soon, focusing on capacity building in both business and technical skills for partners in francophone West Africa', it said.

On the 4Afrika Initiative, it hinted that it would be tightly connected to Microsoft's network of more than 10,000 existing partners in Africa today, a network it had built over 20 years of investing and operating on the Continent.

It said the 4Afrika Initiative would leverage these existing partnerships and create new ones across both the public and private sectors to help advance common goals and to create value for Africans.