Telecom Lead Africa: Microsoft announced a slew of initiatives in Africa to ensure faster mobile growth.
A part of Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative, the technology giant said it will help place tens of millions of smart devices, bring 1 million African SMEs online, up-skill 100,000 members of Africa’s workforce, and help an additional 100,000 graduates develop skills for employability, 75 percent of which Microsoft will help place in jobs.
Microsoft and smartphone major Huawei introduced the Huawei 4Afrika – a Windows Phone 8 which will initially be available in Angola, Egypt, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria and South Africa later this month.
To improve technology access, Microsoft announced a pilot project with Kenyan Ministry of Information and Communications and Kenyan Internet Service Provider, Indigo Telecom to deliver wireless broadband.
Microsoft aims to implement similar pilots in East and Southern Africa in the coming months to further explore the commercial feasibility of white space technologies.
To help empower African SMEs, Microsoft announced a new 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 them expand their business locally, find new business opportunities outside their immediate geography, and help increase their overall competitiveness.
Microsoft will provide free domain registration for 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.
Microsoft has set up 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 4Afrika Initiative will be connected to Microsoft’s network of more than 10,000 existing partners in Africa today. 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.
Microsoft has initiated various other efforts in recent months as part of the Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative, including:
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). 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.