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Tuesday, February 05, 2013
Microsoft's Initiative To Help Improve the Africa's Competitiveness

Microsoft introduced the Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative, a new effort focusing on accelerating adoption of smart devices, empowering small and medium-sized businesses, and raising skills development in Africa.

By 2016, the 4Afrika Initiative plans to help place tens of millions of smart devices in the hands of African youth, bring million African small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) online, upskill 100,000 members of Africa's existing workforce, and help an additional 100,000 recent graduates develop employability skills, 75 percent 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 step toward increasing the adoption of smart devices, Microsoft and Huawei are introducing the Huawei 4Afrika Windows Phone 8, in 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 will be targeted toward university students, developers and first-time smartphone users.

To improve technology access, Microsoft also announced the deployment of a pilot project with the Kenyan Ministry of Information and Communications and Kenyan Internet service provider Indigo Telecom Ltd. to deliver low-cost wireless broadband and create new opportunities for commerce, education, healthcare and delivery of government services across Kenya. The deployment is called "Mawingu," which is Kiswahili for cloud. It is the first deployment of solar-powered base stations working together with TV white spaces, a technology partially developed by Microsoft Research, to deliver high-speed Internet access to areas currently lacking even basic electricity. Microsoft hopes to implement similar pilots in East and Southern Africa in the coming months to further explore the commercial feasibility of TV white space technology. These pilots will be used to encourage other African countries to accelerate legislation that would enable this TV white space technology to deliver on the promise of universal access for Africa.

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. 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.

Simultaneous launch events to kick off this new era in Africa are taking place today in five locations spanning the continent: Cairo; Abidjan, Ivory Coast; Lagos, Nigeria; Nairobi, Kenya; and Johannesburg. In all locations except for Cairo, Microsoft will also be hosting separate developer workshops in the coming weeks to facilitate and accelerate the development of new Windows applications for Africa, by Africans.

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