Online boost planned for a million SMEs across Africa

Online boost planned for a million SMEs across Africa

Microsoft aims to boost economic growth across Africa over the next three years by bringing a million small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) online.

The computing giant’s 4Afrika Initiative will help struggling countries like Egypt, for example, where SMEs there have failed to fully utilise online business banking and other vital internet-related services in any meaningful way. It should also encourage startups and trade and commerce generally in the hard-pressed country.

In addition, the Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative also plans to place tens of millions of smart devices in the hands of African youth, upskill 100,000 members of Africa’s existing workforce, and help an additional 100,000 recent graduates develop employability skills, 75% of whom Microsoft will help place in jobs.

“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,” said Fernando de Sousa, general manager, 4Afrika Initiative. “The 4Afrika Initiative is built on the dual beliefs that technology can accelerate growth for Africa, and Africa can also accelerate technology for the world.”

As a first critical step toward increasing the adoption of smart devices, Microsoft and Huawei are introducing the Huawei 4Afrika, a full-functionality Windows Phone 8, which will come preloaded with select applications designed for Africa. The phone will initially be available in Angola, Egypt, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria and South Africa later this month.

The Huawei 4Afrika phone, which is the first in a series of smart devices designed “4Afrika”, will be targeted toward university students, developers and first-time smartphone users to ensure they have affordable access to best-in-class technology to enable them to connect, collaborate, and access markets and opportunities online.
To help empower African SMEs, Microsoft announced a new SME 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 SMEs expand their businesses locally, find new business opportunities outside their immediate geographies and help increase their overall competitiveness.
As a welcome offer, Microsoft will provide free domain registration for one year and free tools for SMEs interested in creating a professional web presence. The hub is expected to initially open in April 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 online and offline learning tools, to help Africans develop both technical and business skills for entrepreneurship and improved employability.
Training through the Afrika Academy will be 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 in the coming months, focusing on capacity building in business and technical skills for Microsoft’s 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 through more than 20 years of investing and operating in the continent. The Initiative will leverage these existing partnerships and create new ones across the public and private sectors to help advance common goals and to create value for Africans.

For further information, check out the 4Afrika Initiative here.

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