By EMEKA AGINAM
At the launch of the Microsoft 4Africa initiative yesterday in Lagos, the global software giant, has disclosed its plans to commit about N12 billion in the African market as part of its initiative to help improve the continent’s global competitiveness.
Simultaneous, the event was held yesterday in five locations spanning the Continent: Cairo, Egypt; Abidjan, Ivory Coast; Lagos, Nigeria; Nairobi, Kenya; and Johannesburg, South Africa.
The event also follows the introduction of Huawei low-cost Windows Phone 8 device in seven African markets including Nigeria .
The phone will initially be available in Angola, Egypt, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria and South Africa later this month.
The low-cost Windows Phone 8 device powered by Microsoft is expected to drive smartphone penetration on the continent.
The launch forms part of Microsoft’s wider 4Afrika initiative, a new effort through which the company will actively engage in Africa’s economic development to improve its global competitiveness.
As a first critical step toward increasing the adoption of smart devices, Microsoft and Huawei introduced the Huawei 4Afrika , a full functionality Windows Phone 8 which will come pre-loaded with select applications designed for Africa.
The Huawei 4Afrika phone, which is the first in what will be a series of smart devices designed “4Afrika,” will be targeted toward 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.
By 2016, the Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative plans to help place tens of millions of smart devices in the hands of African youths, bring 1 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 percent of which Microsoft will help place in jobs.
Speaking to IT Journalists yesterday during the introduction of the initiative, Onyeje, General Manager, Microsoft Nigeria said with optimism that the capacity building project would help youths to be globally competitive.
“It is a model for job creation. It is all about making Africa globally competitive. We want to create skills. We want to create innovation. We want to create access.
Having smart devices in the hands of many youths in the continent is our major concern now. Young people are critical to this initiate” he said.
“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,” Fernando de Sousa, General Manager, Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative, said, adding that “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.”
To help empower African SMEs, Microsoft also 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, the software giant said would 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.
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, Microsoft said is expected to open in April initially in South Africa and Morocco and will expand to other African markets over time.
To accelerate capacity building and skills development, 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.
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.