As part of the Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative that was announced in February 2012, Microsoft Global has today announced a strategic cooperation with Kenyan business incubator iHub and the m:lab (Mobile Lab) East Africa consortium to enable startups, innovators and the entire developer community in East Africa to grow their skills and strategically build businesses with Microsoft technologies. This cooperation will further seek to offer these 3 communities increased access to Microsoft software, skills development opportunities and a means through which innovative startups can access capital investment and benefit from international outreach.
iHub, an innovation hub for the technology community that comprises an open space made available for technologists, investors and tech companies in Kenya and surrounding areas and run by Manager Jimmy Gitonga as well as m:lab, a consortium of 4 organizations, run by John Kieti, that aims to be a leader in identifying, nurturing and helping to build sustainable enterprises in the knowledge economy are the 2 communities set to benefit from this partnership agreement. These 2 tech hubs have been actively involved in the support and growth of entrepreneurs in larger East African countries that neighbour Kenya like Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, Somalia and Southern Sudan which recently broke away from the larger Sudan to form a republic on its own. In this agreement, Microsoft has agreed to cooperate with the iHub and m:lab network on multiple projects spanning these countries. Some of these project are:
- Microsoft BizSpark memberships – is a scenario where Microsoft will offer training opportunities and participation in prime events to members of these tech hubs and will give them preferred access to business networking and capital investment opportunities. This will be done alongside the Microsoft BizSpark Initiaitve, a global program that helps startups grow into successful businesses through software support and a vibrant ecosystem that delivers exceptional business advantage. So far, Microsoft BizSpark has supported 625 African startups since the program was first introduced in 2009. One of its key highlights pf BizSpark is where a startup gains free access to software for the first 3 years of operation. This lets the startup focus on other key operations and not investment in infrastructural software thus helping it induce revenues faster.
- An Available Ux (User Experience) Lab – Microsoft will facilitate events and workshops on its latest technologies in development through iHub and m:lab community events (including trainings) that members of iHub and mLab can make use of. One of these is the current iHub UX lab.
- Device Availability – Microsoft avail the latest Windows Phone devices as well as a series of other Windows based devices for testing at the iHub and the mLab. This is a key part of eco-system sustainance as developers will now have the chance to test applications and services they are keen on building on these devices to ensure they’re bug free/fit for market by the time they ship
- The partnership now establishes a connection between the iHub Research (of which iHub co-founder Jessica Colaco is a part of) and Microsoft Research to enable access to research tools and collaboration on mutually beneficial projects
- The partnership also creates a opportunity for collaboration between iHub Consulting team and Microsoft Consulting Services on joint customer projects
These announcements come today at the Innovation Africa Digital Summit in Addis, Ethiopia where Fernando de Sousa, General Manager of Microsoft Africa Initiatives spoke. He also wrote a blogpost on this partnership on the Microsoft blogsite.
“Microsoft sees tremendous potential in African youth, developers and entrepreneurs, and we see this collaboration with iHub and m:lab as an excellent way to quickly and directly engage with these critical communities to listen to how we can best support their ambitions and goals. It is our hope that this collaboration will help many more African startups become strong players in the information and communication technology sector at a global scale.”
Erik Hersman, MD and a co-founder at the iHub also spoke to this and said, “We are very pleased to establish this cooperation with Microsoft, spanning the iHub ecosystem, to enable us to provide tech community members with great programs that can help them develop innovative new software products, establish their businesses and reach new markets. Microsoft is clearly a brand that developers and startups want to engage with, and we look forward to this collaboration, which will accelerate the development of technology across East Africa.”
By fashion, Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative is designed to help Africa improve its global competitiveness.
The investment by Microsoft on the continent has a target to:
- Place 10’s of MILLIONS of smart devices in the hands of African youth
- Help bring 1 MILLION African SMEs online by 2016
- To help provide skills (upskill) to 100,000 members of Africa’s existing workforce, and help an additional 100,000 recent graduates develop skills for employability. It is important to note that Microsoft will help place 75% of these recent graduates into good jobs.