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By Patrick Onwumere, Director of Youth Enablement, Microsoft 4Afrika
When we think about technology in education, we don’t just think about putting devices into the hands of teachers and students. We think beyond it. We think about education, training and infrastructure – vital investments needed to support the effective integration of ICT into the classroom. We want to deliver experiences that students and educators love. And so hardware isn’t the main priority. A relevant, valuable and practical education is.
With that in mind, today Microsoft, Intel and the Kenya Private Schools Association have all joined forces to launch the 4Afrika Youth Device Pilot Program in Kenya. We’ve set out to create a bundle offering, to provide affordable devices, educational applications, online services, affordable data plans and smart financing to Kenyan learning institutions. This forms part of our Microsoft 4Afrika Youth Initiative, which was unveiled last year to provide scholarships, fellowships and internship opportunities to thousands of African youth.
Here’s how the Program works.
Affordable devices The 4Afrika Youth Device Program will be providing a range of affordable devices to learning institutions. These devices include smartphones, tablets, laptops, PCs and the Intel Classmate. Intel Corporation East Africa, together with Mitsumi Computer Garage, have played a huge role in designing customised, rugged devices for this Program. The devices are water-resistant, dust-resistant and built to fit a classroom setting, and are also optimised for the provision of digital textbooks with Skype installed, to enable students and teachers to collaborate between classrooms and from home. "The devices all come with Intel® Education Software, a suite of eLearning tools including the newly launched Intel Explore and Learn, designed to promote deeper engagement with content, plus apps that enable science exploration, data analysis and promote creativity," says Alex Twinomugisha, Business Development Manager for Intel Corporation East Africa.
Educational applications Each device in this Program will come pre-loaded with the latest versions of Windows 8.1, Windows Phone 8.1 and the cloud-based Office 365 suite, which includes Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint. In addition to this, each device will have a range of educational applications, games and digital books installed, including:
Training In addition to affordable devices, Microsoft and Intel will be training educators on how best to integrate technology into their classrooms. This will be done through the Intel Teach program – a series of courses designed to help educators teach critical digital skills – and Microsoft’s Teach with Technology course, which leads to the Microsoft Certified Educator Accreditation.
Infrastructure Bandwidth is a top ICT priority, and so each user in our Program will be provided with affordable and tailored data packages from Safaricom. These include 5GB and 10GB bundles for PCs and laptops, to ensure teachers and students stay connected.
With regards to financing for Kenyan institutions, bank loans and contributions will be made available from Equity Bank and M-Changa, a mobile money-based way to contribute towards the purchase of devices.
We’re so excited to be launching this 4Afrika Youth Device Program, and to be supporting efforts in e-Learning. Based on the success of this pilot in Kenya, we hope to soon extend the Program to South Africa, Nigeria and Egypt. There are 209 million students and 6.7 million educators across Africa. Our goal is to offer affordable devices, educational applications and online services to as many as possible, through strategic cost ownership, education partner ecosystem and training support.
For more information on the Microsoft 4Afrika Youth Program, visit: http://www.microsoft.com/africa/youth4afrika/
Posted by Editor
Dele has recently taken up the position of Server and Tools Business Group Lead for Sub-Saharan Africa. Previously, he was the Developer Platform Evangelism Lead for Sub-Saharan Africa. Here, he shares his thoughts on life, Africa and why he loves his job.
How long have you been at Microsoft?
I’ve been at Microsoft for 13 years! This is my seventh role at the company. My previous roles have spanned across our Services Group, Enterprise Group and Business Group.
Firstly, can you tell us what the Servers and Tools Business Group actually is – what does it mean and why is it relevant IN Africa?
The Microsoft Server and Tools Group develops, markets and supports software and services designed to help companies be more productive at every level – from the individual, to the team, to the whole organisation. The products that fall under this umbrella include technologies such as Windows Server, Windows Azure, SQL Server, System Center our Develop Tools (Visual Studio) and Windows Intune. While each of these products plays different roles for the customers, the commonalities between the products ensure that customers have a consistent experience when using the products with the end result being an increase in resource efficiency. With more African companies wanting to increase their competitiveness and more companies investing in Africa than ever before, being effective and streamlined remains a top priority for business stakeholders. For African SMEs and businesses that can’t afford to implement IT infrastructure, moving to the cloud is especially advantageous.
What are your goals as Lead of Server & Tools?
My goal is to provide economical solutions to our customers to encourage adoption of our products, and to bring the cloud to businesses across sub-Saharan Africa.
What was your highlight of serving as the Developer Platforms Director for Sub-Saharan Africa and Indian Ocean islands? How long did you serve in this role?
I was in the role for two and a
half years. It’s hard to single out one highlight as there have been so many. The biggest ones have definitely been providing students, startups and developers with the opportunities to access a global market, and seeing the impact that we have on the continent, especially in academia. Travelling to so many different African countries and getting the chance to interact with some of the brightest developers in Africa is also definitely something I’m thankful I had the opportunity to do! Also the partnership with the 4Afrika initiative has made our impact stick and be long term as we are seen larger as a strategic advisor on this topic.
Do you still do any work in the development field?
Yes, I do. In my current role, I still do some things that I did in my previous role as Developer and Platform Evangelist. Only now I tend to work more directly with enterprises and businesses when it comes to using apps and leveraging the cloud, rather than directly to developers as I did in the past. I also will have more interactions with IT Professionals as in our market they sometimes wear the developer hat as well plus advocacy for the cloud via our Windows Azure platform.
What does your new role entail?
As the Server and Tools Business Group Director for Sub-Saharan Africa, I’m responsible for the marketing, sales, and deployment strategy of our products, for enterprise, and small and medium customers. I’m really excited to work with our SME customers because they are the future of the continent’s economic growth and development. They account for 50% of employment in Africa and add 20% to its collective GDP. These companies face a unique set of challenges and part of my role will be to help them find the best solutions possible.
What did you study, and why?
My first interest was to study Medicine but I ended up changing my major and studied Computer Science. I was always interested in the sciences – both natural science and physical science. I loved gadgets and tools and had a passion for software. So it seemed like the best fit for me!
What’s the first piece of technology you ever owned?
A TV video game console.
What are your hobbies?
I love to travel, I love sports of all kinds, and I love to sing. My main sports are Golf, Basketball, American Football and Soccer. Passionate about the Washington Wizards, Redskins and Arsenal J
What is your life philosophy?
One of the things I’ve always believed is that nobody is going to hand you anything in life. You have to go and grab it! I believe in being fiercely independent, believing in yourself and going out and getting what you need to be happy/successful.
Why do you love Africa?
I was born in the US and spent most of my life in the US. Both my parents are from Nigeria and I always felt close to the country through my heritage. I’ve always been fascinated by the vast opportunities in Africa. My relocation to Nigeria is my way of ‘giving back’ to the country and the continent that I’m so proud of. That’s why I really enjoy the travelling aspect of my job, as I get to experience the diversity that makes up Africa, and I have the opportunity to share my knowledge and expertise with people from many different countries.
By Mteto Nyati, Managing Director of Microsoft South Africa and Vice Chair of 4Afrika Advisory Council
Did you know that in Mo Ibrahim’s foundation’s 2012 report, African Youths: Fulfilling the Potential, it was indicated that in less than three generations, 41% of the world’s youth will be African? An exciting yet daunting challenge!
When I was appointed as the Vice Chair of the 4Afrika Advisory Council in October last year, I immediately knew I wanted to bring strong and influential youth voices on board. The Advisory Council is tasked with aligning our 4Afrika Initiative to broader African development goals. One of Africa and 4Afrika’s goals is to empower and enable African youth so that, in three generation’s time, the continent will be a strong economic competitor on the global stage. The best way for us to sincerely meet this goal is hear and learn from the youth themselves.
And so today, I’m proud to announce four highly influential and innovative young leaders who have been added to the Council. These leaders are going to make the critical young voices of Africa heard, and they are going to help us solve the issues most relevant to young people in Africa. I’m humbled to be working with them. I’m inspired by their stories. And I’m excited about the futures they are going to create.
Akaliza Keza Gara - Rwanda
I’m really looking forward to joining the 4Afrika Advisory Council. I hope to help the 4Afrika Initiative better understand my country. I hope to share the needs that exist here, as well as the opportunities to use technology to impact people’s lives.
After noticing that women in Rwanda weren’t encouraged to study ICT, Akaliza set out to make a difference. She studied Multimedia Technology & Design in university and soon after formed her own company, Shaking Sun, which specialises in graphic design, animation and website development. She now uses her expertise to mentor at kLab and Girls in ICT Rwanda, where she encourages women to pursue careers in ICT and shares key insights on being a tech entrepreneur in Africa.
“When it comes to youth issues in Africa, female empowerment, access to quality education, unemployment and the stereotypes about African youth are most important to me. I find that most of the schools do not teach skills that are valuable in the market. I hope to encourage young people, who have Internet access, to take advantage of the many free online courses and keep up-to-date with industry trends and developments.”
I am also a huge promoter of entrepreneurship. There are simply not enough jobs to employ all of us, so it's important that we create our own. It’s also so important for us to tell our stories. I’m an avid blogger and I would encourage all African youth to start blogging and in that way open the world, and ourselves, to the diversity of our continent.”
Tayeb Sbihi – Morocco
I’m very excited to be joining the council as a youth leader. As a telecommunications professional, I hope to bring affordable broadband access to the youth in Africa. I believe that Internet access will enhance the development of Africa and improve its competitiveness.
Tayeb has a B.S.c, M.Sc and MBA degree all to his name, and is also the founder of B2N Consulting. His company provides the testing, evaluation and optimisation of telecom infrastructure, which means Tayeb is very passionate about bringing universal and quality internet access to Africa.
“Connectivity is one of the solutions and tools that can help us solve prominent issues in Africa. We can reduce illiteracy through e-Learning programmes. We can give the youth a means to speak and share their issues. We can enhance creativity. And we can provide a platform for young Africans to broadcast local solutions and innovations. All of this will make our competitiveness as a continent much higher.”
Olivia Mukham - Cameroon
As a youth council member, I hope to bring light to Africa’s youth aspirations, ambitions and current actions. I also hope to bring my various networks within Cameroon and from more than 20 countries in Africa to the 4Afrika Initiative and action plan.
A self-described ‘Solutionneur’, Olivia has always been passionate about searching for solutions and solving local problems within her community. When she was just a first-year student, she initiated her own water addition project, which solved water-borne diseases such as cholera. The project now provides clean water access to over 5 000 villagers. Olivia also formed Harambe Cameroon, an NGO with the goal of encouraging youths to transform their challenges into opportunities. On top of this, she co-founded Solutionneurs SARL, a company which uses the talented youth of Harambe Cameroon to provide locally-relevant micro-services.
“I look forward to encouraging more and more African youths to be solutions-driven. I think it’s very ironic that we have many mundane and resolvable problems that hamper our standard of living on a daily basis. I hope to encourage the youth of Africa to take action and solve problems in their communities. The zeal of many youths today is impressive, and I know they’re ready to take these challenges on.”
Chude Jideonwo – Nigeria
I’m most looking forward to being part of a committed group of African leaders, who are working hard to open up access to opportunities and be part of the transformation story for the continent and its people. 4Afrika has a huge potential to make a lasting impact, and it’s exciting to be part of that process.
Chude is many great things: A lawyer, award-winning journalist, media entrepreneur and youth development expert. He is also the co-founder and managing partner of RED, and the founder of Enough is Enough Nigeria. As one of Forbes’ 30 Best Young African Entrepreneurs, Chude knows all about jobs and opportunities – and is passionate about creating these for the youth of Africa.
“The challenges young people face continue to evolve. As a youth council member, I hope to achieve more access, more open doors and more opportunities. I’m always asking myself: How can we engage young Africans through and for enterprise, connecting them with opportunities that ensure they create value for themselves and their countries? I am obsessed with how we can use the media to drive this African imperative. So media, youth and opportunities – that’s the intersection I hope to make a difference in.”
The four new youth council members are currently in Abidjan, where they are meeting in-person with the 4Afrika team for their mid-year meeting. For updates on this inspirational group, follow us on Twitter or on Facebook.
By Leila Charfi, Director, Innovation Partnerships, Microsoft 4Afrika
Just over a year ago we launched Microsoft 4Afrika, an Initiative designed to accelerate Africa’s economic competitiveness by investing in Africa’s youth and small and medium businesses in three areas - skills, innovation, and access to affordable smart devices. From the start, we recognized that partnerships with likeminded organizations were critical to the success of this initiative. One of our first such partnerships is a strategic cooperation agreement with the iHub in Nairobi and m:lab East Africa, which in the past year has together provided technical training to 520 startups, SMEs, entrepreneurs, & developers – helping them become fully fledged businesses. Over the past year we have entered into similar agreements with CcHUB in Nigeria, DTBi in Tanzania and AfriLabs, the pan-African hub network.
If you’ve been a closer follower of the African innovation landscape, you will realize there has been a shift in recent years from investors seeking innovative solutions from established independent software vendors toward investing more aggressively in developers and start-ups. Why? They are innately innovative, nimble, have potential for tremendous growth, and are using one-of-a-kind solutions to address local problems.
So if you’re an innovative startup or a developer with big ideas, here are my top reasons for signing up with an innovation Hub– also, check out the video here for more!
We all know the saying, ‘It’s not what you know, but who you know’, often quoted to illustrate the importance of networking. There is great truth in this, especially when it comes to the exciting and dynamic technology industry. And there is no better place to do this than at the vibrant iHub in Nairobi. According to its founder, Erik Hersman, “The iHub’s mission is to catalyze and grow the Kenyan tech community. We do this by connecting people, supporting startups and surfacing valuable information to the community, whether they’re engineers, web designers, investors, government or academia. At our core, we believe that just by putting smart people in a room, good things happen. This has been proved true over and over again for four years now, it is a place where companies spring up, products are funded, people get connected and where innovation thrives. The iHub was born of an idea by the community, and it should be no surprise that it grows due to that same community’s drive and ambition.”
2. Support and resources
Innovation hubs provide direct access to companies like Microsoft, meaning that developers get access not only to a range of tools to help them develop their products, but one-on-one time with experts that provide invaluable feedback and strategic guidance. For example, Microsoft Developer Evangelist and , John Kimani @kimanigakingo on Twitter is at the iHub every Wednesday to provide technical support to developers and answer their questions. And the best thing about people like John is that they are not just there to do their ‘job’ – they’re genuinely passionate about helping people and seeing ideas turned into reality.
One great example of how this kind of support can help developers, comes from Catherine Kiguru, Chief Innovator of Ukall Limited. Catherine is a successful developer who launched her own startup focused on providing mobile HR solutions that address the challenges that business face who employ large and diverse workforces in multiple and often remote sites. She says the collaborative environment and the support she received from Microsoft, ranging from mentorship to resources and testing, have been instrumental to her success. “(The support from Microsoft) has been very instrumental, both in mentorship and in providing us with the right working environment… and in providing us with the resources we actually needed to develop the product and get it out.”
3. Motivation and inspiration
Coding way into the night at your desk all alone in the dark isn’t very glamorous or motivating. Far more appealing is sitting in a trendy, light and colourful space surrounded by like-minded people and everything you could possibly need to be successful. From its bustling coffee shop to foosball table, bean bags, and outside canteen area, the iHub also enables people to maintain some form of social life while they make their development dreams come true. And, there’s a strong chance that by socializing with some of the greatest tech brains around, they’ll walk away with enough inspiration to burn the midnight oil back at home – even if it is at a drab desk, in the dark!
We fiercely believe in the potential of African innovations, and the developers, entrepreneurs, and youth that are driving them, which is why we’ve chosen to support startups by working with innovation hubs. In addition, we believe that open spaces for innovation and collaboration can help nurture this potential, which is tightly aligned with 4Afrika’s goal of helping accelerate Africa’s economic development and improve its global competitiveness.
So, if you are in Kenya and these reasons sound like good ones to you – or if you need more convincing – I urge you to get down to the iHub and see what the space has to offer (you can also follow iHub on Twitter here). And if you aren’t in Kenya, find out more about an innovation hub in your country at the following links:
Afrilabs (pan-African network with affiliates in Cameroon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia)
By Amrote Abdella, Director – Startup Engagement & Partnerships: Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative
Whenever we come across an entrepreneur looking to start a business in Africa, our first piece of advice is this: Develop solutions relevant to Africa. At Microsoft, we’re always working to identify and engage with promising startups – startups who not only have burning ideas, but who have gone beyond these ideas and developed innovative solutions right here in Africa.
As you may have heard, last week, as part of our 4Afrika Initiative, we announced the awarding of innovation grants for five local startups who are doing exactly this. Through our partnerships with 88mph, HiveColab, CC’Hub and other developer communities, we discovered Africa 118, Kytabu, access.mobile, Gamsole and Save & Buy – startup companies who are already making waves across Africa. While we are always on the look-out to support ground-breaking innovation, and drive the long-term competitiveness of Africa’s economy, even we are humbled at how truly brilliant this innovation can be. Here are their stories.
Africa 118 - Kenya
Ezana Raswork’s father had some new puppies that he wanted to get immunised. But he couldn’t find contact information for a local vet who did house calls. That’s when Ezana, who was working at the Yellow Pages in Canada, decided to work on a business idea that would make it simple for mobile consumers to find services in Africa.
“I found that 85% of Kenyans experienced frustration trying to find local information at least once a week,” says Ezana. “This problem seemed so solve-able to me, so we developed Africa 118. Here, we work to build the best, most up-to-date and accurate database, where users can get real-time access to the services they need.”
To use Africa 118, users call an agent at one of the relevant mobile partners, who then sends an SMS back to the caller with the contact information they’re looking for. And a search like this only costs 20 Kenyan shillings.
“We’ve become experts in identifying the best services, getting the right information first time and ensuring there are no duplications. Websites often have inaccurate information, so it’s our job to step in and contact local businesses, to make sure we provide the most up-to-date information. And we’re proud to say we have an eight to nine out of 10 satisfaction rate. Our users come back and have been known to use the service up to 10 times a month.”
Going forward, Africa 118 hopes to make their services available across a wider variety of platforms. “We’re excited about our future with Microsoft, who are helping us develop an online platform and app for our service. Our vision is to give users access to an accurate database through whichever platform they prefer – be it through an SMS or an app.”
Kytabu - Kenya
Tonee Ndungu’s father has always been invested in African education. In 2007, he started a nursery school for his local community, providing classrooms, meals, teachers and uniforms – all at his own investment. But he hit a snag when it came to the unbelievably high cost of school textbooks. So one day in 2012, over a cup of tea with his son, Kytabu was born.
“Kytabu is a textbook encryption and subscription system,” explains Tonee. “Users can rent an entire textbook, or selections of the book, for any period of time – from an hour to a year – using a mobile money platform.”
To use Kytabu, a user purchases the service and receives a memory card preloaded with every book in the Kenyan education curriculum. They also receive a SIM card that allows the app to be updated over cellular data. The whole application runs on a Windows tablet, or off a dongle for Windows 8 desktops, where users can enjoy textbooks, audio books, learning games, virtual classrooms, past tests and exams, as well as an app store.
“The cost of each textbook is subsidised by as much as 20% once it is digitised. The renting concept allows you to rent a page for as little as six Kenyan cents per day. This solves the access, affordability and cost challenge – translating into a 60% overall saving.”
Kytabu’s goal is for the developing world to have universal access to relevant learning material. “There are three main challenges to this” explains Tonee. “Infrastructure, cost implications and textbook lifecycles. Through a micro SD for storage, a dongle or tablet as a function device, a SIM card as a communication portal, and the leasing of content on micropayments, we hope to accelerate this change in the next decade.”
access.mobile - Uganda
Kaakpema ‘KP’ Yelpaala had been living in East Africa for five years, when he became aware of the growth of mobile and the opportunities it offered. He also saw a thriving and growing SME sector – but not too many businesses focused on them. So, he put this opportunity and this challenge together and created access.mobile.
“access.mobile provides high-quality and customised mobile technology solutions to a wide range of enterprises,” explains KP. “We’re helping enterprises – large and small and across various sectors – to adopt and integrate technology by digitising their operations. Our technology drives efficiency, provides key business insights and helps enterprises to be more profitable. We’re not just building tech. We’re providing relevant solutions that address wants and needs – and ultimately create value.”
What’s interesting is that access.mobile has a different story to most tech startups. It wasn’t born out of a business plan. It was born, in part, out of an encounter with a coffee exporter in rural Rwanda.
“I was chatting to a coffee exporter and I saw his process of working with farmers was all paper- and cash- based. I kept wondering how I could digitise his process. So we built him a mobile app that tracked his transactions and gave him insights into his flow and inventory. And access.mobile just grew from there. Today we carry a 90% customer satisfaction rate, and this is from people who had previously just been using Microsoft Excel, at best.”
At the heart of this business is an interest in SMEs and technology access, which has led to a great synergy with Microsoft. “There are mutual interests and priorities between 4Afrika and access.mobile. Microsoft has been helping us to build on our small successes in East Africa and to think about scaling across Africa. They’re giving us access to key people who are helping us pursue a broader African vision.”
Gamsole - Nigeria
Abiola Olaniran was a computer science and mathematics student, with a passion for the mobile space in Africa. After noticing that most people use their devices for gaming, he started Gamsole – a mobile game production company. 11 weeks into its launch, Gamsole had over 1 000 000 game downloads. Fast forward five years and Abiola is Nigeria’s highest paid Windows Game developer.
“Human desire for entertainment is undying, and that’s what we hope to satisfy at Gamsole,” says Gamsole CEO Abiola. “On an everyday basis, millions of people are experiencing little boring moments: the long queue at the supermarket, the traffic, a 13-hour flight. Apart from providing the entertainment factor for scenarios like this, mobile gaming also serves as a great tool for education.”
The secret behind Gamsole’s success is simple: They listen to their audience. “Apart from the fact that we make quality casual games, we listen to our users’ demand. For instance, every now and then we get requests from our Facebook fans for games they would like us to create. Some of these people were on iOs or Android phones before switching to a Windows Phone, and they’re now looking for similar gameplay on their new device”.
Although he peaked early, Abiola only has plans to sustain his momentum. “Gamsole is operating on the fastest growing mobile platform in the world. And we hope to move along with this growth.”
Save & Buy - Nigeria
It was during a work day when Hugo Obi was speaking to his colleagues at a gaming company in Nigeria. They all had things they wanted to buy, yet simply couldn’t afford – mostly due to a lack of access to funds. So imagine a company that helped you save towards them?
“Save & Buy is all about helping you create a savings plans for specific products you want to buy online,” explains Toni Osibodu, Hugo’s co-founder and business partner. “So while you’re shopping online, you click the Save & Buy button and start a savings plan. You select your duration, put down a small deposit and receive reminders of when to deposit money into your Save & Buy account. Once you’ve paid the full amount, the retailer sends your product to you”.
Save & Buy was only founded in July 2013, but under their CEO Hugo have already made huge progress. “We’re now looking at implementing new features, such as saving towards virtual products like birthdays or holidays. Part of this will include a group save feature, so that friends and family can work towards a common goal. Microsoft is helping us here by giving us access to world-class servers, so that we’ll have a stable and reliable platform for the increased traffic.”
Save & Buy are in a good place and their growth is definitely worth keeping an eye on. “Things are moving quickly for us. We were fortunate to have made the right connections fast. We’ve got big expansion plans and ambitions, and hope to be in at least three African countries in the next three years.”
It’s clear that the future is nothing but bright for these five African startups. We at Microsoft are proud and privileged to be a part of their journey. The 4Afrika innovation grant programme will be providing each startup with financial backing, technical support and mentorship. We look forward to seeing them inspiring and influencing future developers and entrepreneurs in Africa, so that together, we can make Africa the global competitor it is destined to be.