In an effort to help empower African SMEs, Microsoft has announced a new online hub through which African SMEs will have access to free 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.
And if domain registration is your challenge, 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 as a ‘Welcome Offer’. The hub is expected to open in April 2013 initially in South Africa and Morocco and will expand to other African markets over time.
In addition to this, Microsoft has 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 and to accelerate capacity building and skills development. Training through the Afrika Academy will be made available starting in March 2013 at no cost to the following groups of people:
- Recent higher education graduates
- Government leaders
- Microsoft partner community
One of the first offline training sessions will take place with Microsoft managed partners in Ivory Coast in the coming months, focusing on capacity building in both business and technical skills for our partners in francophone West Africa.
The 4Afrika Initiative will be tightly connected to Microsoft’s network of more than 10,000 existing partners in Africa today, a network it has built over 20 years of investing and operating in the Continent. The 4Afrika Initiative will 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. Together with our partners, Microsoft has initiated various other efforts in recent months as part of the Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative, including:
- AppFactory (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 crowd-sourced for voting, and the most popular ideas are assigned development resources to get the app built and launched into the Windows Store. Already, 73 Windows apps and 39 Windows Phone apps have been built by the AppFactory teams, and at full capacity, the teams plan to contribute around 90 new apps to the Windows Store per month.
- Nokia and Windows Phone user training (Kenya and Nigeria): Microsoft has established agreements with Safaricom in Kenya and Bharti Airtel in Nigeria to accelerate local adoption of the Nokia Lumia 510 and Nokia Lumia 620 Windows Phones. In these markets, more than 90 percent of phones sold are feature phones, so through these agreements, Microsoft is funding in-store training for consumers who purchase these Nokia Lumia models on how the data plan works and its benefits, to help make these smartphones better understood and therefore more desirable for consumers.
- Female empowerment portal (North Africa): This portal targeted at North African women will launch in March as an offshoot of the MasrWorks IT skills portal. It is designed to empower young women to play a leadership role in their communities, build their skills and self-esteem and introduce new models for self-employment. It will provide IT skills training and also softer skills training on topics including leadership, self-confidence and interviewing, as well as the mentorship needed to build a long-term career in technology. The mentorship will be provided via a sustained engagement between Microsoft, our partners, a local NGO, and the beneficiaries to support them in career building and to plan their role in society as female leaders.
“We believe there has never been a better time to invest in Africa and that access to technology — particularly cloud services and smart devices — can and will serve as a great accelerator for African competitiveness,” said Jean-Philippe Courtois, President of Microsoft International. “The launch of Windows 8 and many other new products in the coming months represent a New Era for Microsoft Corporation, 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.”
Simultaneous launch events to kick off this New Era in Africa are being held in 5 locations spanning the Continent in:
- Cairo in Egypt
- Abidjan in Ivory Coast
- Lagos in Nigeria
- Nairobi in Kenya and
- Johannesburg in South Africa
In all locations except for Egypt, Microsoft is also hosting separate developer workshops in the coming weeks to facilitate and accelerate the development of new and innovative Windows applications for Africa, by Africans.