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Posted by Hennie Loubser, General Manager of Microsoft West East Central Africa and Indian Ocean Islands
It’s been a great 10 years for Microsoft in Ghana so far. We’ve seen tremendous growth in the country’s ICT sector, particularly its mobile and internet penetration rates, and our initiatives have reached over one million youth to date. As Microsoft now shifts its global focus to a devices and services offering, we want to continue to ensure that Ghana remains one of our critical investment markets. As part of this commitment, I’m excited to announce that we have appointed our first country manager in the region, and our first female country manager in Africa.
Otema Yirenkyi is a native Ghanaian with over 14 years of experience in ICT and an inspiring leadership vision. I managed to sit down with her and chat about her new role and what she hopes to see Ghana achieve in the future.
Welcome to Microsoft! Why are you excited to be joining the team?I feel privileged to lead the Microsoft business in Ghana. This is an exciting time in Ghana when the country is rapidly transforming both economically and socially. This offers an unprecedented opportunity to drive innovation, particularly in the area of mobile technologies.
What are your roles, responsibilities and goals as country manager in Ghana? As Country Manager for Ghana, I will lead the team to grow the Microsoft business. I will serve as a brand ambassador and evangelist for Microsoft technologies and I hope to inspire young people to create a culture of innovation driven by technology.
Your previous line of work has seen you quite involved in strategy and business development. What are your thoughts on encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship in Africa? I think once African entrepreneurs have increased access, affordable technologies and the ability to monetise innovative ideas, they will create solutions that solve many of the economic and social challenges confronting Africa
What advice would you give to young women looking to join the ICT industry – what challenges have you faced as a leader in ICT? I would work to dispel the notion that ICT is mostly for men. I encourage young women who studied in technical fields, as well as those who didn’t, to pursue a career in ICT. The industry offers many technical and non-technical options for women to have rewarding careers. My challenges as a leader in technology have mostly been around how others might perceive a woman leader. But I have always overcome such obstacles by demonstrating that my position is based on my skills and capabilities.
Why are you passionate about technology and the ICT sector? I love problem solving and have always been fascinated with how technology solves so many challenges. . I love how on a personal level it makes my life so much easier and how on a global level provides the tools that enable us to solve problems or explore the boundaries of some of life’s bigger challenges.
When did you first realize your passion for technology? What was the first piece of technology you ever owned? In High School we had a computer lab and I loved spending time there, to learn more and tinker with the machines. My parents, realising that I loved computers, bought me my first PC and it made me one of the most popular girls in my school.
What are your thoughts on the state of technology and ICT skills in Africa? Are there any interesting market trends in your region? I think there is a skills and access gap in Africa. Given the right investments in providing access and affordable technologies, that gap can be closed. I think the mobile platform offers, for the first time, the opportunity to leapfrog and close the digital divide.
What qualifications do you hold? Why did you choose to study these subject fields? I have a BSc from Cornell University in Industrial and Labor Relations and an MA in Development Studies. I wanted to be a labour /employment lawyer but once I started taking African Studies courses I was inspired to commit myself to a career that would enable Africa’s economic development. I spent an internship at the United Nations in New York and in Kenya, and then decided to pursue a Masters in Development Studies. After leaving school I kept wondering how I would marry my love for technology and passion for Africa, so joined the ICT industry and have worked in a number of African countries ever since.
What are your hobbies and interests? I love the arts, particularly going to museums and the theatre. I also write and perform poetry. I love travelling and learning about new cultures. I also enjoy riding my bike and hiking. I have a real commitment to the community and express that through a number of mentorship programs and the mentoring of youth.
What do you love most about Ghana? I love the vibrancy of Ghana, the richness of the food and the energy of the people – striving towards their dreams and always smiling. This may seem clichéd but Ghanaians are some of the friendliest people I know!
By Fernando de Sousa, General Manager of Africa Initiatives at Microsoft
Africa is home to some of the fastest growing mobile phone penetration rates in the world. With a liberalized telecommunications sector and increasing service affordability, mobile penetration in sub-Saharan Africa alone has increased 44% since 2000, according to the GSM Association (GSMA). As a result, a great deal of Africa’s technology innovation today is taking place on mobile platforms. Although some infrastructural gaps remain, Africans are mobile-savvy and are eager to use the best quality devices. At the same time, Africa is becoming a net producer of technology and already under our 4Afrika banner, we have seen over 100 Windows Phone apps being created per month across the continent.
Last month, I was invited speak at the GSMA’s Mobile for Development conference in Cape Town. This topic of mobile for development in Africa is of particular interest to me and in line with the goals of our 4Afrika Initiative. My message: An affordable phone alone is not enough. We believe that the focus should be on providing Africans with affordable and reliable access to applications or services that enable them to trade, to learn and to grow their businesses in ways that result in economic growth and ultimately a better quality of life.
To read more about how mobile can be a catalyst for economic growth click here
By Daniel Kamau, Anti-Piracy Director for Microsoft West East & Central Africa and Indian Ocean Islands
When I say ‘Intellectual Property’, what do you think of? Copyright laws? Trademarks? Patents? Those are all big legal words. Words that don’t sound like they really make an impact on any of us.
But what if I told you to think about local artists. Inventors. Musicians. Think about creative human beings with imaginative and inspired ideas – ideas that foster African innovation and establish Africa as a strong economic competitor on the global stage.
What happens if those ideas get stolen?
Piracy in Africa
Piracy is not only a threat to large and wealthy multinational organisations. It affects small businesses and individuals, which in turn negatively impacts socio-economic development. When people invest time and resources into an idea or product that gets stolen, the research and development cycle breaks down. People become discouraged. New ideas stop. Innovation stops. And because small and medium business enterprises (SMEs) create twice as many new jobs and grow revenues 15% faster than developed markets, job creation and economic growth stops too.
A threat to intellectual property (IP) is a threat to African economic development. Especially when Africa has an average software piracy rate of 80% -- making it one of the most affected continents in the world.
Artists asking for recognition
I recently spoke to Mauritian artist and singer, Jean-Jacques Arjoon, about music piracy. Arjoon has been in the African music industry for 17 years and has seen it evolve from analogue to digital. For him, one of the biggest IP threats is the uploading and sharing capabilities offered by the online space.
“Writing is a form of expression and it takes an average of four months to create a song – maybe even four years for an album,” he explains. “When people upload and share work online, no licence fee is provided for by the producers and other IP owners. This has an impact on the music industry, as people no longer buy works produced by authors and IP owners in official music shops.”
“People need to be recognised in monetary terms for the time and effort they are putting into their work. They need funds to survive and keep providing music to their fans. If we want the music industry to last and be an economic backbone that keeps GDP on an upward curve, an absorber of unemployment and social crisis, and a creator of a happy population through entertainment, we need to protect IP rights.”
IP protection gives small businesses and individuals the confidence they need to develop their ideas. It’s a promise that their time, effort and money will be protected and result in growth and success. For startups, securing investment and funding often depends on how well their IP is protected, because investors aren’t going to plug resources into an idea that could be quickly stolen or copied.
A challenge in Africa is that most people do support IP legislation and believe that inventors should be rewarded. However, they make use of pirated music, software, movies and other ‘fake’ goods, unaware that what they are doing is illegal.
If we want to see Africa thrive and become the economic competitor we know it can be, we have to protect our local talent – our musicians, artists and great thinkers. At Microsoft, we are deeply committed to IP protection. We have an important role to play in educating the public on IP rights and in partnering with governments to help them introduce and implement the right laws. It is up to us all to ensure that businesses – big or small – know that they have the opportunity to see their ideas become a reality.
If you are unsure whether or not you are buying fake software or goods, visit our website: How-to-Tell.
By Dele Akinsade, Platforms Evangelism Lead, West, East, and Central Africa, and Indian Ocean Islands
A fun-loving, piano-playing, visionary geek. Abiola Olaniran dreamed about the dramatic rise of the mobile space in Africa, and of his own tech empire to go with it. Five years later he is Nigeria’s highest paid Windows Game developer and CEO of his own software development company, Gamsole, with games topping over 4 million downloads. It offers ten games including the popular, TrafficJam, Candy Smasher, Mega Chicken and Ninja Jump, which is downloaded over 20, 000 times per day. Road Blazer, a car racing game where players speed through traffic while earning secret weapons, has attracted over 500,000 downloads alone since its launch in April 2013 to date.
I was fortunate to catch up with him over Skype to chat more about his story and views on the Gaming and software developer industry in Africa.
Why focus on developing games?
When I looked at the mobile space, I noticed that people most love to consume entertainment. About 38% of global phone users have a phone solely for this purpose, second to the use of social networks. People never get tired of gaming. Likewise, creating multimedia games is my passion.
How did you become a software developer?
I was always interested in technology and studied computer science and mathematics at University. This became my passion and I was already coding in Java Script as a student. I also connected with Microsoft mentors at the University who invited me to become a Microsoft Student Partner. This gave me the opportunity to be an evangelist for the company and I was organising student events, helping others learn about Windows, and spreading the word about DreamSpark, Microsoft’s online portal for developer resources and tools.
I chose the mobile Windows platform because it’s new, exciting and beginning to have ‘magic moments’. I also didn’t want to compete against established gaming companies like Senga where there’s about a one in 3000 chance of getting your game downloaded because of the competition.
Windows is easy for young aspiring developers to learn and in Africa it offers the most support. Growing up in Nigeria I was at the Microsoft offices every weekend where there were evangelists to help me. I don’t see that on the other platforms.
Tell us about your experience at the Imagine Cup World Finals in 2010.
I participated in Imagine Cup for two years running. The first year, our team came second in Nigeria, just missing the opportunity to attend the World Finals. The following year, I learned to hone my presentation skills, and focused on highlighting the key aspects of the app – and we won!
Imagine Cup is a great experience. It helped me believe that I had the power to create something amazing, and that young African students can do it too. I remember playing spider man as a kid and thinking, ‘Wow, the people who created this are crazy clever!’ Imagine Cup showed me that these people can be you or I.
What came next for you? How did you find out about startup accelerator 88mph?
With the confidence gained at Imagine Cup, and the experience it gave me in seeing an app idea through from idea stage to being published, I wrote a letter to Yalla Apps, which enables developers from around the world to submit their Windows Phone applications to the Microsoft marketplace without hassle - soon, I had my first app published!
With the company Gamsole in mind, I then contacted 88mph, which I had read about as being one of the most prominent seed funds in Africa. They replied that they were interested because unlike many startups applying for funding, mine was already making a profit through my published apps. The adventure had just begun and a year ago I left my small home town, Ife in western Nigeria, and moved to bustling Nairobi where 88mph is based.
What do you look for when hiring interns at Gamsole?
Nothing can beat a solid set of skills. This can be a challenge in Africa, but a professional portfolio profiling your experience and past projects is very important.
What do you love most about Nigeria?
It’s Dynamic. The youth there have this energy that they are just going to make things happen.
What does the future hold?
I would like to continue creating games based on African experiences that users from all over the world will love. Most of our 1.5 million downloads already come from other countries: Brazil 20% and China 12%. We are also expanding our advertising offering using in-app advertising and paid apps models.
What message do you have for aspiring developers?
There is no better time to be a developer in Africa. The market isn’t saturated and it’s full of possibilities. It’s like ‘super magic power in your hand’. Investors that are traditionally shy of backing local software developers are also seeing the potential. Remember, a great idea doesn’t make a great company. You need solid business fundamentals to get it off the ground and financial support most certainly helps. I’ve been fortunate to have worked with start-up accelerator 88mph and I’m pleased to hear that Microsoft’s Venture Partner Programme has expanded to Africa, selecting 88mph as its first African accelerator partner.
By Mteto Nyati, Vice Chair of the 4Afrika Advisory Council and MD of Microsoft South Africa
When we launched the Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative in February this year, we set out to improve Africa’s economic competitiveness. Key to this is our goal of getting one million SMEs online in three years, and it as my honour to be in Johannesburg today to share some details on how we’re going to do that.
Why is this such a big priority for us? Well, for SMEs, going online opens up enormous opportunities. Tech-savvy SMEs created twice as many new jobs and grew revenues 15 percentage points faster over the past three years than SMEs using little technology, according to a study we commissioned with the Boston Consulting Group.
As a company, we’ve recognised that addressing Africa’s employment crisis is not only about enabling unemployed people to work for a wage, but about helping aspiring entrepreneurs create small businesses that create jobs and foster locally relevant innovation. With SMEs representing over 90 percent of private business in Africa and contributing more than 50 percent of employment and GDP – their success is paramount to the overall performance of local economies.
Today, we have furthered our commitment to the small business sector by launching our first SME hub, in South Africa. This new online hub – which can be found at southafrica.biz4afrika.com – is a collaboration between Microsoft, Vodacom, Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA) and the National Small Business Chamber and is designed to bring a range of free and highly relevant products and services to SMEs in South Africa. For the first year, this includes helping SMEs get their businesses online, by providing a free .co.za domain, a free website and free email and collaboration tools.
In addition, Microsoft—with support from the Media, Information and Communication Technologies Sector Education and Training Authority (MICT-SETA) and Solver Consulting—will also place one 4Afrika intern in each of the SEDA’s 43 centres across the country. Four additional 4Afrika interns will also support SME queries online, where they will receive on-the-job training on technology, connectivity, retail and more. The goal is for these interns to become SME business and technology advisors in the communities where they are directly needed.
The challenges facing SMEs
Microsoft has always had a strong heritage of supporting entrepreneurs. We recognise their crucial role in the global economy, and because we understand their challenges and needs, we believe we’re in a good position to help them find solutions.
We understand that across the world, many SMEs don’t have access to modern technology or even to broadband networks. They are using old and less efficient hardware and software, which negatively impacts their productivity and relevance in an increasingly digital world. Just having a website can radically increase a SME’s chances of success, and internet access opens up new borders and markets to help them acquire new customers. The range of cloud-based tools and services we’re offering on the hub will give SMEs easy and cost-effective access to the modern technology they need to operate at their maximum potential.
Technology can level the playing field for small businesses, helping them compete against much larger players.
Embracing new tools
SMEs are quick to embrace new tools. And so, with this new SME hub, we look forward to helping them succeed in the first three to five years of their lives – the most challenging and vulnerable time for most SMEs.
The result of more SMEs surviving and become successful will be increased job creation and economic development. In doing this, we’re not only investing in local communities, but we’re also supporting the South African government’s national priority of creating jobs, growing skills and giving people meaningful work.
As 4Afrika works to get one million SMEs online by 2016, I’m excited to see new job opportunities open up, and see this dynamic sector use the power of the internet to push new boundaries. This hub in South Africa is only the first of many country-specific hubs we’ll open in the coming months. We’re excited to bring these resources to bear for SMEs and look forward to the amazing things we know they’ll do for their local economies.
Visit the hub
If you’re an SME in South Africa who is interested in working with tools and resources from Microsoft and other partners, we encourage you to visit the new hub here: southafrica.biz4afrika.com
By Leila Charfi, Director, Innovation Partnerships, Africa Initiatives
What do we mean when we say we see boundless potential in the people of Africa? To be boundless is to be limitless. Abundant. Infinite. To have potential is to have qualities and abilities that can be developed; that can lead to future successes. To have boundless potential must then be to have abundant abilities and endless opportunities for development.
Unfortunately, in Africa, opportunities for development are not endless. At least not yet. There is limitless talent, but more opportunities are still needed to develop it. Being on the continent for over 20 years, Microsoft is very familiar with Africa’s inherent talent and through our 4Afrika Initiative, we’re helping to ensure that Africa can continue to grow and create its own opportunities.
Today, at DEMO Africa, we unveiled a new commitment to support startups under the 4Afrika banner by entering into cooperation agreements with innovation hubs CcHub in Nigeria, DTBi in Tanzania and AfriLabs – a pan-African hub network spanning Cameroon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Uganda and Zambia. Through these cooperations, we’re giving their communities access to:
In short, we’ll be a catalyst for young innovators to have much easier access to the tools and resources they need to fully develop their ideas. This builds upon our existing agreements with Kenya’s iHub and m:lab which were announced in March. As Eric Hersman, founder and manager of iHub said, “Microsoft is clearly a brand that developers and startups want to engage with and this cooperation enables us to provide tech community members with great programs that can help them develop innovative new software products, establish their businesses and reach new markets”.
It also builds on our news from last week, when we announced the expansion of the Microsoft Ventures partnership program into Africa, with 88mph as our first African accelerator partner. Microsoft Ventures is our global effort to offer the tools, resources, expertise and routes to market for startups, through partnerships with accelerators around the world.
I can imagine no better backdrop for this great momentum than DEMO Africa, which is built on the premise that startups in Africa are developing real-world solutions and are worthy of investment and global attention. As platinum sponsor, we’re partnering with fantastic organisations in Africa to get these startups seen and turn their ideas into realities. We don’t just want to encourage African innovation, we want to help accelerate it. And to do this, we’re providing each DEMO Africa finalist with free access to our global BizSpark program, which provides them with software, support, visibility and a community of mentors.
To have boundless potential means to have no boundaries to success. These cooperations are a strategic and crucial opportunity to help remove these boundaries and extend our support broadly to the African continent. Because when we say we see boundless potential in the people of Africa, we mean it. In every sense of the word.
Posted by: Dele Akinsade, Developer Platforms Evangelism Lead, sub-Saharan Africa and Indian Ocean Islands
I must have the best job at Microsoft. I get to experience the passion of young people using technology every day, and how a little imagination can solve seemingly impossible problems. Like this year’s Imagine Cup winners of the United Nations Women’s Empowerment Award, Team Code 8 of Uganda, who developed a Windows app called Matibabu that diagnoses malaria without pricking a body part! By attaching a Kinect sensor to your finger, your malaria status is fed into your smartphone within seconds, and for free! From the heart of Africa, here is an innovation that has the potential to save lives all over the world.
Team Code 8 truly deserves their success, and their hard work and dedication is inspiring. I caught up with them after the Imagine Cup World Finals in St. Petersburg and we talked about some of their competition highlights. "Getting to present our project to Matt Smith, who is the famous doctor from BBC’s Doctor Who, is a definite highlight,” says Josiah Kavuma, the team’s mentor.
When asked how it felt to win, Josiah beams at the memory. “It was awesome, we could not stop smiling. It’s one of the best moments we shared as a team.”
We also chatted about the apps presented at the competition that inspired us most. Team Code 8’s favourite was SoundSYNK, developed by the UK’s Team Colinked, which is an app that enables the synchronisation of music playback between multiple Windows devices in perfect harmony, essentially creating a stereo sound system. “The effect is mindblowing,” says Josiah.
My personal favourite was the Portuguese team’s For a Better World app, which uses a portable device to determine a person’s blood type in about five minutes - no surprise that it won the World Citizenship Award.
In addition to the USD 12 000 prize, Team Code 8 will take away lifelong memories from participating in the competition - networking with peers, experiencing a world-class city, and being exposed to the best technology ideas in the world. The team’s success will no doubt impact aspiring developers in Uganda and other African countries, and to all the local students out there, I say don’t let your circumstances define you. Be inspired by what you see around you. Be the new Africa!
I look forward to seeing more local students coming up with inventions that will positively impact millions of people on the continent, and the world. Next year, I believe e-commerce will be the next big thing in app development, for it has the potential to solve the financial inclusion problem in many parts of Africa - just look at the success of Mpesa.
But for now, keep your eye on the Windows store for new, life-changing apps every day. And in a few weeks, Matibabu will be available for download!
By Amrote Abdella, Director 4Afrika Venture Capital and Startup Programs
As leading Harvard Professor, Michael Porter, once said: “Innovation is the central issue to economic prosperity.” At Microsoft we couldn’t agree more, which is why one of our goals is to empower Africans to make the most of, and monetize their own business ideas. There is certainly no shortage of brilliant ideas on the continent, but no matter how bright they burn, they require time, investment, and the right tools to become a blazing, fully-fledged business.
This is why we are so excited to announce that Microsoft’s Ventures partnership program is expanding into Africa, starting in Kenya. Microsoft Ventures was created to give startups a leg-up by providing access to tools, technology and training. Kenya is quickly being recognised as an innovation hub, particularly in the mobility space. It’s been reported that there are 74 mobile phones for every 100 Kenyans and, of those who access the internet, 99% do it via a mobile device.
Expanded to Africa as part of our 4Afrika Initiative, Microsoft Ventures speaks to our belief that technology can accelerate growth for Africa, and Africa can also accelerate technology for the world. Around the world, Microsoft Ventures selects strategic accelerator partners in each region to provide local market expertise. For our venture into Kenya, we’ve selected 88mph for its proven track record in helping local entrepreneurs turn ideas into thriving businesses. Since opening up in July 2011 the company has already graduated 32 startups. That equals nearly one success story for every month they’ve been in operation!
One of my favourite stories and a prime example of what we hope to achieve with this partnership, is a company called Gamsole, started by Nigeria’s own Abiola Olaniram. Abiola had a vision of creating his own tech company, capitalising on the growing mobile space and people’s love of entertainment in Africa and all over the world. Funded by 88mph and Microsoft’s BizSpark program, he started developing Windows Games and is now the highest paid Windows game developer in Africa, with over 1.5 million downloads. This is just one example. You can read about dozens more on the Microsoft Ventures website.
We want to remove as many barriers as we can to enabling a startup to thrive. The program is simple: those who are interested can apply to an immersive 3-6 monthaccelerator program. The only requirements are a full-time founding team and less than $1 million raised. Qualifying companies will have access to mentors, technical and design experts, development tools and key resources.
Ultimately, we want to see a thriving African startup ecosystem contributing to Africa’s economic development and competitiveness on a global scale. We feel strongly that by partnering with 88mph we are helping to pave the way to a better, stronger future.
By Mteto Nyati, MD of Microsoft South Africa and Vice Chair of the 4Afrika Advisory Council
Last Friday in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, I was honored to take on an additional role and responsibility as vice-chair of our new 4Afrika Advisory Council, led by His Excellency, Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania. The first meeting of our Council brought together 10 prominent business and thought leaders from across Africa who have all accepted to help us shape our strategy around the Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative.
At Microsoft, we strongly believe in the collective wisdom of a group and the value of outside perspective, which is why we invited these distinguished influencers to establish the Council. The mission: to ensure that the Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative always remains relevant for Africans and does in fact help the continent become and remain globally competitive for the benefit of the African people. The Council will meet in-person twice yearly in different locations and hold regional meetings at other times throughout the year.
It was important to us that our Council truly represent the diversity of Africa – geographic, age, gender and a broad range of industries which stand to benefit from technology. It is that very diversity that is so core to Africa’s allure and potential.
Council members therefore include the likes of Senegalese Mariam Jamme, CEO of SpotOne Global Solutions and co-founder of Africa Gathering, the first global platform bringing together entrepreneurs and others to share ideas about development in Africa. We also have technology innovator, development activist and World Economic Forum member, Bright Simons, who as President of the mPedigree Network invented a system that empowers consumers to instantly verify whether their medicines are safe and not counterfeit. For the full list of the Council members, see bottom of the blog or Click here.
With such a diverse and distinguished group, the conversation at our first meeting was lively and insightful. Topics ranged from how to spur local innovation, to economic growth and urban development. Leading the agenda was the topic of how to fuel the potential of Africa’s youth. The continent is home to the top ten youngest populations in the world, and according to the World Bank, there are 200 million people aged between 15 and 24 years on the continent, comprising more than 20% of the total population. An even bigger challenge is that youth make up 37% percent of the working-age population, but 60% of the total unemployed.
In the coming weeks, we will also add four African youth leaders to the Council because we want to make certain that we are really listening to and understanding the needs and wishes of this critical demographic. We look forward to introducing those new Council members soon, and to working together as a full Council to continually push forward the agenda of the 4Afrika Initiative to accelerate economic development and improve African competitiveness.
4Afrika Council Members
Chairperson - H.E. Benjamin Mkapa
Vice-Chair - Mteto Nyati
Secretary - Louis Otieno
Fernando de Sousa, General Manager 4Afrika
Ali Faramawy, Convener, 4Afrika Inaugural Meeting, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Middle East & Africa.
By Djam Bakhshandegi, Corporate Citizenship and Partners in Learning West East Central Africa & Indian Ocean Islands
Microsoft’s Partners in Learning isn’t the only initiative to celebrate an anniversary this year. On the 23rd of September 2013, Microsoft’s global YouthSpark programme officially turned one. Over the past 12 months, we’re proud to say that this programme has created opportunities for over 103 million youth worldwide.
But this is only the beginning.
In Africa alone, there are over 200 million people between the ages of 15 and 24 today. When we see that number, we think of all the potential and innovation there is still to be unlocked. Which is why, through YouthSpark and initiatives like 4Afrika, we’re placing more focus on the youth than ever. Young people are at the core of Africa’s economic growth, its innovation and its future. If we can bring access to technology, opportunities for innovation and world-class skills to them, imagine what they can bring back to us.
YouthSpark in Africa has so far impacted over 2.5 million youth. We look forward to reaching more of our young people, and celebrating even more new opportunities this time next year.
Read more on YouthSpark’s first year, and how it’s impacted students globally.
By Djam Bakhshandegi, Corporate Citizenship and Partners in Learning West East Central Africa & Indian Ocean Islands
On the 10th of September 2013, Microsoft’s flagship education programme, Partners in Learning (PiL), celebrated its 10 year anniversary. We celebrated 10 years of helping educators and students connect, collaborate, create and share. 10 years of bringing tools and technology that teach critical 21st century skills. And 10 years of providing educators with the resources that help them do what they do best – growing young minds.
PiL in Africa
Although PiL is a global initiative, it has held a particularly relevant – and special – place in Africa. African countries have recognised the need to prepare their youth for the 21st century. ICT skills, research, innovation and problem-solving are increasingly seen as vital to the continent’s sustainable social and economic success.
African countries have also recognised the potential of their youth. Microsoft sees this potential and has created engaging youth focused initiatives, including Imagine Cup, AppFactory and Innovate4Good. This dynamic capacity, coupled with the necessary skills, has proven that this continent can indeed be a global competitor in the field of innovation. However, for many African schools, access to devices and the ever-changing technology landscape still remain a challenge.
Through PiL, we have worked with African governments, school leaders and teachers to keep up-to-date with technology. We have integrated technology into the classroom in a meaningful way – by introducing not just devices, but mentorship, time and support. Together, we have worked to make technology an educational and empowering tool. A device strategy in education without the content and professional development to complement it is bound to fail, and we at Microsoft are very aware of this. Our engagement with African governments is to provide them with a holistic, relevant, and value-based educational experience, ripe for the 21st century.
I’m proud to say that African classrooms are now using technology to provide group and individualised learning experiences; that tablets and smartphones, among other devices,are teaching critical 21st century skills; that teachers are working with their colleagues at school and around the world to share best practices and find inspiration; and that education leaders are becoming change agents. Technology is making the educational world smaller – and students are all the better for it.
10 is not the only milestone
But a decade of empowering students and teachers is not the only number to celebrate. In the last 10 years, PiL has:
Looking back to 2003
10 years ago, the goal of PiL was to help educators prepare their students for the jobs of tomorrow. Today, 10 years later, our vision remains unchanged. The vision of PiL is forever relevant. As long as technology is constantly transforming – and there’s no doubt it will – there will be a need to constantly prepare students for the changing global workforce.
Going forward, Microsoft will continue to invest in PiL. We have, in fact, just announced a 5-year extension to our programme, bringing it to a total of $750 million in 15 years. We look forward to celebrating the next big milestone – and making our youth of today the leaders of tomorrow.
By: Marc Israel, Office Division Group Lead for Microsoft West, East and Central Africa and Indian Ocean Islands
It’s no secret that Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are the powerhouse of the African continent. In fact, the UN estimates that they contribute over 50% to employment and GDP in most African countries and account for about 90% of private businesses. But it’s not always easy doing business in Africa, as many entrepreneurs reading this will know. And access to affordable technology, which is key to growth, is one of the biggest challenges. On top of this, there’s often a shortage of internal skills to get the best out of complex and expensive technologies. Cloud computing, which essentially means using the internet to host and access software, is a real opportunity for SMEs that want world-class technology at an affordable price and that’s easy to use. Here’s how:
We believe that cloud computing has the potential to transform the region through empowering SMEs to embrace the technology they need. If you’re still unsure, why not visit our Office 365 video hub for free tutorials and our SME video hub for tips on how to unlock your business potential with our software.
By Patrick Onwumere, Director of Youth Enablement, Microsoft 4Afrika
For students around the world, no matter background or location, access to quality education can be challenging. In Africa, it’s usually even tougher. And, when it comes to obtaining a tertiary level qualification, the barriers to entry can seem insurmountable to many young Africans.
These barriers are a huge concern, not only because it means many students aren’t able to follow their career path of choice, but because they impact whole societies. Developing countries require the high-level skills, specialisation, and analytical skills that come with individuals trained at tertiary level. These skills help drive local economies and economic competitiveness in today’s knowledge economy.
This is why I’m so excited about the launch of the Microsoft 4Afrika Scholarship Program, which will provide mentorship, leadership and technical training, certification, university-level education, and employment opportunities to promising African students. Through the 4Afrika Initiative and YouthSpark program, we’ve made our intention clear: to help millions of Africans get critical skills for entrepreneurship and employability. And this Scholarship Program is another example of our strategy in action.
It is fitting that the 4Afrika Scholarship Program, as well as the Program’s first partnership with the University of the People (UoPeople), was officially announced on International Youth Day. Through the UoPeople program, which is the first of what will be several participating higher education institutions, 1000 deserving African students will receive 4Afrika Scholarships. These scholarships will help equip students with the skills to follow a rewarding career path and become valuable contributors to society.
The University of the People is a non-profit online institution, offering associate degrees in Computer Science and Business Administration. Both men and women can apply for the Scholarship Program, but we would like to see these scholarships increase the number of women in these subject fields – so we are encouraging lots of young women to apply.
Students who wish to apply for the first 4Afrika Scholarships to the University of the People must be at least 18 years of age, have a high school diploma and be proficient in English, as the Program’s coursework is English-language. Applications can be submitted on the following site: www.uopeople.org/4afrika. The first 4Afrika Scholarship students will begin classes in November 2013.
We are looking forward to expanding this program over time, so I encourage all young people to stay tuned for more opportunities that could benefit them by following us on the Microsoft Africa Facebook page, or on @MicrosoftAfrica on Twitter, or checking out www.youth4afrika.com.
By Jean-Philippe Courtois, President of Microsoft International
Africa is essentially a continent of young people – and it’s growing fast. In fact, the top 10 youngest populations in the world are all from Africa, led by Niger, where nearly half the population is below the age of 14. This demographic reality means that many countries on the continent are struggling to keep up with the exploding demand by young people for the skills needed to perform the jobs of today and tomorrow. They’re battling to develop modern workforces, and provide opportunities for the youth.
This is one of the reasons why we at Microsoft launched our 4Afrika Initiative earlier this year, in an attempt to drive innovation, skills development and access across the continent – and more importantly, to accelerate economic development for the continent. Recently, I visited Kenya and South Africa, and I was very happy to see that 4Afrika is already having a meaningful impact on the lives of young Africans.
In Kenya, I was fortunate enough to meet President Uhuru Kenyatta at State House in Nairobi to discuss ways that Microsoft could partner with the Kenyan government. President Kenyatta is a firm believer in the power of technology to drive education and skills development for young people. He even tweeted about our meeting, and was very supportive of the work we’re doing with Mawingu, to deliver high-speed broadband through white spaces to parts of Kenya which are currently off the national power grid.
Our discussion was about how Microsoft can partner with the Kenyan government to help ensure its students and teachers get the very best out of a critical information and communications technology (ICT) investment the government is currently making. They are working on a solution to deliver computers to all first grade students in Kenya, and it was an honor to talk to the President and his team about the value of the entire ICT ecosystem in education – including devices but also critical elements such as teacher training, curriculum, content and more. I’ve since sent President Kenyatta a proposal for what we think we can bring to Kenya’s students through the combined power of devices and services, and we’re looking forward to engaging with him and his government as they move ahead in this important process.
While there, I was also able to spend some time with Kenyan youth. We had an excellent hour-long session at the iHub in Nairobi with students, bloggers, innovators, start-ups and upcoming developers, where we sharedviews on the opportunities available through Microsoft, and how to grow the developer ecosystem in Africa. The message is clear: there’s lots of excitement about the power of technology to make a difference, and people see Microsoft as a key part of the journey. We are committed to delivering on this for Africa.
I next travelled on to South Africa, where the highlight of my visit to Johannesburg was the announcement of a major partnership with the South African Government’s Jobs Fund which will train more than 3000 unemployed graduates to get permanent jobs in the technology sector in the next three years through our Students 2 Business (S2B) program. This represents an extension of our existing S2B efforts, which have already trained more than 6500 South African graduates to date and placed more than 75 percent of them in jobs.
Investing in this way with the Jobs Fund and 4Afrika, we’ll dramatically expand this existing skills development program, adding capacity to South Africa’s growing IT industry, and also providing much-needed jobs at a time when youth unemployment is one of the biggest threats and challenges facing the country.
Again, our partnership with government is key to the success of 4Afrika. Patrick Dlamini, chief executive of the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA), which administers the Jobs Fund, described the partnership as “a major breakthrough” that would help foster closer collaboration between the public and private sectors in creating jobs in South Africa.
What this tells us is that we’re on the right track in terms of providing support and solutions that make a difference in the lives of African people, and talk to the issues being experienced on the ground. At the end of the day, it’s all about being locally relevant. And right now, you can’t be much more relevant than enabling the creation of a knowledge economy across the continent by using Africa’s greatest resource – its people.
Mteto Nyati, Managing Director, Microsoft South Africa
Africa is big, really big. In terms of land mass, China, India, the USA and most of Western Europe could all easily fit within its footprint. This size presents its own problems, not the least of which is the difficulty of connecting people to the Internet. The usual copper and fiber combination often doesn’t cut it, especially in rural areas where more than 60 percent of the population resides.
To bridge the divide, we been working to deploy affordable broadband services using white space technology (unused TV frequencies). Having launched pilots in Kenya and Tanzania under the 4Afrika Initiative – and in the UK and Singapore, we are excited to be bringing this technology to South Africa. Five secondary schools in remote parts of the Limpopo province will now benefit from the combination of low-cost wireless broadband, plus great Windows devices and relevant services for education.
Around 28 percent of South Africa’s 50 million people are online, according to the latest report published by the Digital Media and Marketing Association and Echo Consultancy, and South Africa’s minister for science and technology, Derek Hanekom, has set a target of getting 80 percent connected by 2020. Achieving this goal would enable many more in South Africa to take advantage of the burgeoning digital economy. Through this pilot and other efforts, we at Microsoft are deeply committed to helping the government succeed in this important effort.
Education is fundamental to the economic development of any country, and it is education that stands to gain the most from this particular white spaces project. Using the University of Limpopo as a hub for a new white space network which is delivered through solar-powered base stations, the project will also provide each of the five schools with Windows tablets, projectors, teacher laptops and training, solar panels for device re-charging, and education-related content.
In Singapore last month, Microsoft – as a member of the Dynamic Spectrum Alliance – was advocating laws and regulations that promote better use of spectrum frequencies. The results so far are a testament to the power of the Internet, while the 4Afrika Initiative shows that intelligent use of unused spectrum frequencies can help connect the unconnected.
Of course technology access creates enormous potential, but we believe it’s this end-to-end package of access plus devices and services which enables true advancement and economic development. This is why we launched 4Afrika, an initiative designed to empower and educate 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. Starting here in Limpopo, we are looking forward to working with South Africa to bring more and more of our own online.
By Attilla Szenvedi, Marketing and Operations Director, WECA and IOI
Technology is changing the world and has transformed the way people work and play forever. The term ‘global village’ has become popular to describe how friends, family and businesses spread out across countries and continents are able to communicate effectively and close the physical gap between them with the aid of technology. Africa currently has more than 650 million mobile phone subscribers and over 167 million internet users, and these numbers will grow dramatically over the next few years. African smartphone penetration is also predicted to increase to 17% in 2017, according to Analysis Mason, and this will further drive internet adoption.
The interconnectivity explosion and innovation of new devices, has created a world where people can connect and do business anytime, anywhere. Businesses are taking advantage of new technologies to become more flexible, agile, and penetrate previously inaccessible markets and borders. And having the right operating system in place is critical to support a new, and better way of doing things.
Windows 8, which has just sold over 100 million licences, is designed for mobility and connectivity, making it the perfect platform across all devices. With a touch screen interface it operates seamlessly on tablets and smartphones, but is just as exciting for traditional PCs operated by a keyboard and mouse.
In addition to enhanced security and reliability, it has a super speedy boot time, operates ten times faster than XP, and saves power and battery consumption by over 20%. A colourful, customisable dashboard, and intuitive swipe gestures, gives Windows 8 a ‘cool’ edge. There are over 60 000 Windows apps already available and Microsoft is investing heavily through our DevCamps, AppFactory, and Imagine Cup initiatives, in a generation of African developers with the skills and expertise to increase Windows 8’s local offerings.
When it comes to technology, our continent is abuzz with excitement! So join the party and download Windows 8 now.
So, here are some of my favourite features to get you started.
Alethea Lodge, Public-Private Partnerships Manager, International Organizations, Microsoft
Science + technology + engineering + mathematics = STEM, a key driver of progress and economic growth around the world. However, in both developed and developing countries, women are highly underrepresented in these fields, meaning that STEM is also critical to women empowerment. When it comes to the ICT sector, for example, only 18% of computer science degrees in the United States are earned by women. In African countries the representation is similar, with women making up only 15% of the ICT workforce in Kenya and 18% in South Africa.
But a new generation of ‘girl geeks’ are making a real mark on the technology sector and propelling the economic growth of their countries forward, like Senegalese, Mariéme Jamme, CEO of IT organization, SpotOne and co-founder of Africa Gathering, the first global platform bringing together entrepreneurs and others to share ideas about development in Africa. Although female role models are changing perceptions about women in ICT, most still face barriers to entry and have not yet been able to take advantage of the immense opportunities provided by technology.
Microsoft is a firm supporter of women in the STEM fields and we are part of several partnerships and initiatives to enhance access. As part of our 4Afrika Initiative we launched Aspire Women, a series of events designed to empower over 3000 young women to play a leadership role in their communities, build their IT skills and self-esteem, and introduce new models for self-employment. Last month, 100 young women from all over Egypt participated in an Aspire Women workshop and learned general computer skills and how IT can help in running a business. The country is one of many in Africa where women perceive a STEM career as unattainable but the technology skills acquired at the workshop will help them secure better jobs, build successful businesses, and have an impact on their personal lives and communities. Exposure to technology should happen at a young age, which is why we also have our YouthSpark’s DigiGirlz program to inspire high school girls to pursue STEM subjects by providing them with the opportunity to interact with Microsoft employees and receive computer and technology training.
Mobile technology in particular is having real impact on economies and development, and on the 20th June I was fortunate to attend the ScientificMobile Learning workshop in Nsukka, with our longstanding partner, UNESCO, and the International Centre for Theoretical Physics and the University of Nigeria. The workshop uncovered how technology can be a catalyst for empowering women, and in turn, enables them to have a greater impact on economic and social development and pedagogies for teaching girls STEM in the classroom. On the agenda was the recently released white paper, Girls in STEM and ICT Careers: The Path toward Gender Equality. Sponsored by Microsoft in conjunction with UNESCO, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and UN Women, the whitepaper pinpoints solutions to the global challenge of increasing the number of girls interested in STEM subjects.
The solutions include four focus areas:
- Combatting stereotypes about women and girls in science
- Making IT relevant to their lives
- Women empowerment
- Improving access by overcoming the issue of skills availability and development
This is no quick fix, but if academia, private enterprise, government and NGOs all work together to change cultural perceptions and provide ample and inspirational learning opportunities, we should start to see women finally represented more equally in such critical academic and professional fields.
Posted by Dele Akinsade
Developer Platforms Evangelism Lead, Sub-Saharan Africa and Indian Ocean Islands
“Never before in history has innovation offered promise of so much to so many in so short a time.” – Bill Gates
I am thrilled by the African finalists of this year’s Imagine Cup competition. It’s no secret how innovative African youth are and this year’s winning projects are testament to this. Ten teams from across the continent will be jetting off to St. Petersburg, Russia in June, to compete in the global finals against 120 countries from around the world. In addition to participating in a life-changing event and a chance to win the USD $300, 000 pot prize, our African representatives will have a world stage on which to highlight the role the continent’s local developers play in addressing the most critical issues of the developing world.
You might have heard about our 4Afrika Initiative, which was launched in February this year, and is built on the belief that technology can accelerate growth for Africa, and Africa can also accelerate technology for the world. It’s this idea that makes me so passionate about our local developers and so excited about Imagine Cup. The competition is just one of our many YouthSpark programmes designed to create opportunities for hundreds of millions of youth around the world.
So join me in applauding and supporting the African finalists for the Imagine Cup 2013 competition:
Team Life Saver from Obafemi Awolowo University and Ladoke Akintola University of Technology have developed an application called CardioLife, which helps prevent heart attacks by monitoring heart readings on the fly via the Microsoft Windows Phone. It also provides a rehabilitation programme for stroke patients using the Kinect sensor.
Team Life Saver
Wise Team, with members from ENIT, INSAT, and Time Universities, will fly to the finals to present their app, Drive Alive, which reduces the risk of falling asleep at the wheel. By providing a travel schedule, it alerts the drivers to any rest areas along their route and is calculated according to recommended sleep patterns and maximum driving times.
The Ugandan winners, Team Code 8 from Makerere University, have developed a solution called Matibabu that diagnoses malaria without pricking any body parts! This cutting-edge technology uses a light sensor connected to a tablet that is passed over a finger to diagnose the disease.
Team Code 8
Team GreenMust’s winning application makes recycling fun in an effort to promote environmentally friendly habits. Users receive ‘green’ tips and win points and vouchers for checking in their recyclable wastes. It also provides a virtual market place for recyclers and collectors to meet individuals and corporations accumulating a large mass of recyclable wastes.
Team PI CRAFT from Jomo Kenyatta University are the Kenyan finalists, with their project dubbed Protégé. The application allows people from around the world to search for children’s homes and rehabilitation centres, send donations, and even virtually adopt a child. All through their Windows smartphones!
Team PI Craft receiving their prize: A paid trip to compete in the global finals in St, Petersburg Russia
Team SentiMeter from the University of Johannesburg in South Africa have made it through to the Imagine Cup finals yet again! They have developed a big data social media analysis tool called SentiMeter, which competes with products like Brandseye, Radian 6 and BrandWatch. SentiMeter has already had interest from companies wanting to buy it.
The Creators of SentiMeter
Team Masked Ninjas from Cairo University’s Faculty of Engineering scooped top spot with their application called Videolater. It is designed to give users a more interactive experience of the news by automaticallysearching for online video clips of the news item being read. According to the team, “People with smartphones want to touch and feel the news.”
Participants in Egypt’s final
Team Tandabala from the Botho College of Software Engineering have developed a pension payment system called Tandabala. The application enables old age pensioners, World War veterans, and the destitute to receive their social security payments from remote locations. This is a solution to a very important issue as many pensioners in deep rural areas can’t easily reach central payment stations such as post offices. There are already 30,000 registered pensioners who benefit from the application.
Team UMA, comprising four students from the Angolan Methodist University (UMA) invented the Windows version of the popular game entitled “Don’t Fret” or “Não Te Irrites”. Played between four competing players across devices, this exciting game can now be enjoyed between friends in different locations.
Team Kernel from the Ivory Coast won the West and Central Africa regional finals held in Dakar, Senegal. Their innovation, Neoformily, meaning never forget your family, helps patients with Alzheimer's and memory disorders recognise their loved ones through face and voice recognition.
Each competing team deserves the highest recognition for the creativity and imagination applied to some of the world's biggest challenges. All of these solutions will have an impact on the future and inspire others. SinceImagine Cup was launched a decade ago, over 1.65 million students across the globe have participated and many of them have gone on to create thriving startups in their countries. So let’s get behind these teams and give them ourfull support!
If you are a student with a great idea for an app, I encourage you to apply for next year’s competition. Also, don’t forget that Microsoft’s BizSpark programme, another YouthSpark initiative, is a great way to get the support you need to launch your startup business
So what are you waiting for? Dream it, build it, live it, and win it!
By Akhtar Badsah, Microsoft senior director of citizenship and public affairs
Image courtesy of UNHCR Innovation/R. Nuri
Dadaab, Kenya, is home to nearly half a million Somali refugees. For many, the walls of a refugee camp are the only life they have ever known. But education and skills development can break down these barriers, with technology as the catalyst. This is why I am delighted to announce the official launch of the Dadaab Community Technology Access Centre (CTA), a Microsoft collaboration with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), to bring technology access and training to young refugees.
The launch is a culmination of two years’ worth of efforts and I applaud the Microsoft Kenyan office, which has worked closely with UNHCR Innovation on the ground to bring the Centre and our initial investment to life. UNHCR has been a long-term partner of Microsoft since 1999, our first public-private partnership with an international organization. Since then, we have developed a range of innovative solutions like the CTA programme to address the many needs of refugee communities around the world.
Already in Dadaab, 214 computers are being distributed to 39 schools and four vocational centres in the region, effectively increasing formal access by 100% in schools and doubling the number of available computers to vocational learners. These resources will equip students with ICT skills and provide access to a world of knowledge on educational subjects. Computer studies have therefore become a highly valued and demanded course in the community. In just one week, as many as 145 secondary school students will enroll in IT skills classes. Over 800 vocational students have already registered for the 2013 curriculum, and there have been requests for advanced IT courses to become available.
To support this uptake, a ‘Train-the-Trainer’ programme has been initiated to help teachers provide high-quality, community-based tuition. To date, 863 individuals have been trained and many teachers are young refugees themselves. ‘Train-the-Trainer’ also provides community ownership, which is essential for sustainability. And sustainability is the heart of any project’s success!
Sustainability, long-term relationships and engagement are at the heart of our partnerships. We believe it is critical to build the capacity of local individuals by bringing the knowledge, talent and skills of our Microsoft employees to NGOs and communities. And it’s not a one-sided transaction – using the skills they learn, these communities will help stimulate local economies and fuel economic development in Kenya, benefiting everyone. This scenario is at the heart of our recently launched 4Afrika Initiative, which is built on the belief that technology can accelerate growth for Africa, and in turn, Africa can also accelerate technology for the world. And just a few months after launch, we’ve already formed strong partnerships to help facilitate this, such as our recent collaboration with the Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH) and local internet service provider UhuruOne, in a TV white spaces project to increase low-cost wireless broadband access.
In Dadaab, we have ensured that each school and the Centre, has a sustainability and livelihood plan. Several schools are offering additional training programmes after hours, where they will charge a small fee, giving them a sense of ownership, generating a flair for business, and providing more learning opportunities.
At Microsoft, our belief is firm in the possibilities that technology offers nations and individuals as they emerge on the world stage. Our BizSpark, YouthSpark, and DreamSpark programmes are some of the ways in which we are upskilling, mentoring, and creating business and employment opportunities for thousands of people through ICT. For refugees, access to a computer and the internet can change their life, open their minds, and spark dreams for the future. With the CTA, the youth of Dadaab will gain more than digital literacy; they will gain access to livelihoods. Together with the UNHCR, our long-standing partners, we aim to embrace refugees as part of the worldwide community’s technology movement and support ICT education and learning in challenging environments.
Fernando de Sousa, General Manager – Africa Initiatives, Microsoft Corporation
In Thomas L. Friedman’s book The World is Flat, he uses a proverb to describe today’s globalized economy:
Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up.
It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion orit will be killed.
Every morning a lion wakes up.
It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it willstarve to death.
It doesn't matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle.
When the sun comes up, you better start running
Today, in almost every sense, Africa’s lions are running. And they’re running fast. The lions I refer to are the new breed of African-born tech companies being supported through programs like the Liberalizing Innovation Opportunity Nations (LIONS@FRICA) partnership and Microsoft’s own 4Afrika initiative.
Through LIONS@FRICA, Microsoft along with program partners the US State Department, Nokia, USAID and African Development Bank, are providing resources to emerging African startups with the ultimate aim of promoting economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa. LIONS@AFRICA is a public-private partnership mobilizing the knowledge, expertise and resources of leading institutions and corporations to encourage and enhance Africa’s innovation ecosystem and to spur entrepreneurship across the continent. The partnership promotes the 4Cs of engagement to support Africa’s budding startup ecosystem: Capacity, Connectivity, Credibility, and Capital.
LIONS@FRICA was launched last year at the World Economic Forum on Africa in Addis Ababa and today is again front and center with African policymakers and business leaders at the African Development Bank (AfDB) Annual Meeting in Marrakech. In an all-day side event, Microsoft is part of a wide spectrum of technology stakeholders LIONS@FRICA is bringing together to discuss and debate the policy framework and reforms needed to let our lions run as fast as they can. The hope is that by gaining a better understanding of the challenges facing the continents most dynamic and innovative startups, policymakers and institutional stakeholders will have a better sense of how to support their local ICT industry.
Africa’s development is unique in many respects and demands a policy environment that reflects this. When policymakers think about how to create a nurturing and supportive environment for innovative technology entrepreneurs and companies, it is critical to take these factors into account.
Convening events like the AfDB Annual Meetings and WEF on Africa are unique opportunities to bring stakeholders together. Last October in Nairobi, Microsoft was a cornerstone sponsor at DEMO Africa, one of LIONS@FRICA’sflagship initiatives. At DEMO Africa, forty young African startups were selected to showcase their solutions to a high qualified set of venture capitalists, executives and press members. The startups at DEMO Africa came from a wide range from technology fields: mobile, enterprise tech, consumer tech, social media and cloud. They came from across Africa and many used it as an opportunity to launch their products, compete for awards and announce to Africa and the world what they have developed.
Encouraging innovative entrepreneurship is also one of our leading 4Afrika objectives. By 2016, we aim to bring 1 million African small and medium 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 which Microsoft will help place in jobs. In addition, we are putting a services offering in place to help qualifying SMEs gain access to free, relevant products and services from Microsoft and other partners. Our aim is to aggregate services, which can help SMEs expand their businesses locally, find new business opportunities outside their immediate geography and increase their overall competitiveness.
Through programs like LIONS@FRICA and 4Afrika, public private partnerships are providing additional resources and support for Africa’s tech startups to thrive.
It’s time we unleashed our lions.
By Kevin Connolly, Windows Business Group Manager for Microsoft Sub-Saharan Africa & Indian Ocean Islands
To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly. ~ Henri Bergson
The news has been out for a while but if you haven’t heard, take note. Microsoft is ending Windows XP support from April 8th, 2014. This may sound scary, but moving onto a new operating system is a completely natural progression, and just like a car needs to be serviced and upgraded, so do computers. This is why Microsoft has a ten year Support Lifecycle Policy.
Windows XP was launched in October 2001. When I think back on the last 10 years, I realize just how much can change in a decade. In 2001, many of us were still using floppy disks, the very first Harry Potter film graced our screens; Africa’s Queen of pop, Brenda Fassie had just released her ‘Greatest Hits’ album, and flip phones were all the rage. Wikipedia had just launched, Facebook didn’t exist yet – and, Windows XP was the latest and greatest operating system on the market with a faster start-up time, a sleeker interface, and exciting new tools like Media Player and Movie Maker.
Over the last ten years, the floppy disk has become antiquated, seven Harry Potter movies have been box-office hits, Africa has mourned the loss of the Queen of African Pop, and flip phones have become a rarity. Wikipedia has replaced encyclopaedias, Facebook has become the most popular website in the world – and, people who are still using Windows XP are now missing out on the latest and greatest technology.
Just like pop culture, technology has changed drastically over the last decade. As an enabler, it responds to the changing needs of its users. It empowers people by saving them time, improving productivity and removing constraints– from geographical distance to language barriers. It makes what was previously impossible, possible. And the limit to what it can do is constantly expanding. When you start to think of technology like this, it becomes clear why using outdated forms of it cause you to fall behind.
So, relying on XP, which is now 11 years old, could mean you’re doing business at half the pace of everyone else, and coming up against obstacles no one else encountersanymore. Because of its age, Windows XP also relies on the ongoing delivery of security-related patches to remain secure. When support ends, users will no longer receive new security updates and patches. With more sophisticated cyber threats emerging every day it’s critical that individuals and businesses have a modern OS to protect their data, customer and credit card information, and keep their IP safe!
With Windows 8 having just reached its 100 millionth license activation and over 60 000 Windows 8 apps available in the app store, there is no better opportunity to embrace newer and bettertechnologies than now! When it comes to the world of technology, standing still really is falling behind.
And, the good news for SMBs, is that if they register for Windows 8 Pro before 30 June, they’ll receive a 15% discount on Windows 8 Pro and Office Standard 2013
Posted by Fernando de Sousa General manager, Africa Initiatives at Microsoft
This week, Cape Town is hosting the World Economic Forum for Africa (WEF) and I’m lucky enough to be attending. The WEF covers almost 30 different topic areas that together hold the key to Africa’s continued and increased expansion and economic development. The potential for positive change is huge, which is why I’m so excited to be here and to meet likeminded people who have the ideas and energy to help Africa thrive in the digital age.
Microsoft’s 4Afrika Initiative is itself trying to achieve more for Africa (it’s in the name!). 4Afrika was launched in February with the aim of improving Africa’s global competitiveness through technology. Two of our stated goals are to make affordable smart devices available to Africa’s youth and to test unused TV broadcast radio frequencies (known as ‘white space’ frequencies) to increase Internet access in underserved areas. In February in Kenya, we launched Project Mawingu, our first white spaces project in Africa.
Today, I’m excited to announce another white spaces collaboration aimed at connecting African students and teachers and giving them the opportunity to engage in the global – and borderless – digital dialogue. In Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, we are working alongside the Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH) and local internet service provider UhuruOne to get tens of thousands of university students and faculty members better connected by installing low-cost wireless broadband access at the University of Dar es Salaam, amongst others, and to provide affordable Windows devices and relevant services. [See press release for more information]
Projects like this are part of our overall 4Afrika strategy to engage in Africa’s development, address youth unemployment, help recent graduates develop skills for employability, and support the development of young software developers and entrepreneurs.
The three principal themes of this year’s WEF Africa are ‘Accelerating Economic Diversification’, ‘Boosting Strategic Infrastructure’ and ‘Unlocking Africa’s Talent’. We believe 4Afrika serves all three of these themes. Hyper-connectivity is vital to the economic and social development of the continent, and improving access through initiatives like 4Afrika will help achieve these critical goals.
We’re proud to say that Microsoft 4Afrika is gaining momentum. Since launch we’ve seen nearly 400 apps created by our AppFactory interns, and we’ve touched more than 1,100 developers through DevCamps in Kenya, Ghana, Rwanda and Tunisia alone. We’ve also trained around 1,100 partners and government leaders across 14 countries through our Afrika Academy. We’re just getting started, so we’re looking forward to the time here at WEF Africa this week to make sure that as a community, we are working together to pursue common goals and to accelerate African competitiveness and innovation.
Posted by Dele AkinsadeDeveloper Platforms Evangelism Lead, Sub-Saharan Africa and Indian Ocean Islands
Developers are crucial to Africa’s digital development. Without local developers to rely on, Africa would struggle to gain ground in an increasingly digital global economy. And, they are important to our ecosystem in Africa because we rely on them to make our offerings locally relevant. For example, when Windows 8 was launched worldwide last year, African developers seized the opportunity to create new apps to address Africa’s unique opportunities and challenges.
To support the development of a vibrant, strong developer community in Africa, we hold frequent Microsoft DEV Camps across the continent. They are not only a great opportunity for developers to learn from experts and network with each other, but also to have valuable hands-on time to practically apply what they have learnt to an IT problem. What’s more, they are completely free!
DEV Camps are an important part of our commitment to Africa. The Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative, launched in February 2013, is built on the belief that technology can accelerate growth for Africa, and that Africa can also accelerate technology for the world. We know that African developers not only have the potential to solve local challenges, but to solve global ones too, and this is why we’re increasing our investments even further in reaching out to African developers.
So don’t miss out on the opportunity to be part of Microsoft developers’ community by participating in one of the upcoming Microsoft DEV Camps in Africa, taking place in Nigeria, Ghana, Ethiopia and Kenya in 2013. If you are unable to attend any of the Camps, you can start perfecting your development skills through our array of online resources:
- DreamSpark provides students with software design and development tools at no charge.
- Microsoft Virtual Academy provides free online IT training & learning of Windows, Microsoft Technologies through courses designed by industry experts.
- Channel 9 keeps you up to date with videos from people behind the scenes building products at Microsoft.
- Microsoft Learning provides online computer training, and online computer certification for all Microsoft technology products, courses, and exams.
- BizSpark provides free software, support, visibility, and community to promising start-ups and visionary entrepreneurs.
For details on upcoming DEV Camps in your region, you can follow these Facebook pages and groups: Microsoft Africa; Africa Apps, Microsoft DPE WCA, DPE Nigeria, DPE Indian OceanIslands, and DPE East and SouthernAfrica.
You can also follow @MicrosoftAfrica and @AfricaApps onTwitter.
Posted by Robert Kayihura, Legal & Corporate Affairs, Microsoft
Today, we are celebrating World Intellectual Property Day, a global event that brings attention to the importance of intellectual property in encouraging innovation and creativity. This year’s theme is ‘Creativity: The Next Generation”.
This got me thinking –when we look at the next generation in Africa, what do we need to do to ensure they are able to be as creative as they possibly can be in solving future challenges?
Finding creativity in Africa certainly isn’t the challenge. Like anywhere in the world, people across the continent have been coming up with creative solutions to everyday challenges for centuries. People are naturally innovative and in Africa this is particularly evident when you look at the informal sector, where people have found extremely creative ways of making a living and addressing local needs and challenges.
New skills needed to use new tools
However, thanks to technology, there is far more potential to solve what were previously considered unsolvable problems. Think about all the breakthroughs we’ve seen in healthcare in the last decade. Yet, while information technology (IT) is more ubiquitous and continues to advance; the disconnect between the people who experience certain challenges and those that have the ability to solve them is widening. So while there may be an app for almost every purpose in the world; most people in Africa don’t own smartphones, and those that have challenges that could potentially be solved using IT also don’t have the means or in many cases the know-how to create relevant apps.
Local solutions to local challenges
This is why we are so passionate about supporting local developers, entrepreneurs and startups on the continent, and about ensuring the next generation has the skills and tools needed to empower themselves and contribute positively to society.
The realization of how important it is to support innovation in Africa is largely what has informed our recently launched 4Afrika Initiative. We started noticing through our work across the continent that a huge number of young people were really set on coming up with their own solutions to local challenges. While many of them succeeded without any help, these encouraging trends confirm what we’ve observed in other parts of the world – the most effective way to solve challenges in Africa, is to support the continent’s young people, aspiring entrepreneurs, and the regions small and midsize businesses by helping them access the devices and IT services they need to do the ‘problem-solving’. After all, this is a far more sustainable approach!
The missing ingredient
But there is one thing missing from this mix that is necessary to support a strong culture of innovation: a widespread understanding of the concept of intellectual property (IP), and a respect for the protection of ideas.
Last month in Tanzania African Ministers gathered to discuss the role of innovation as a driving force of social, economic, and environmental development. Countries that are highly innovative have greater development potential, and the protection of IP is central to ensuring the link between the two.
Recently I wrote about how important IP is to start-ups, and how strong IP legislation can really make all the difference when it comes to attracting investors. As I noted, inventions protected by patents are worth on average 200% more than unprotected inventions. For African entrepreneurs to have the chance to take their ideas to market and compete against global companies, they must have the assurance that all their hard work will not be stolen from them.
So this World IP Day, I urge you to consider the place innovation has in your life and in the future success of Africa – and to spread the word about how important it is for us to collectively support the culture of innovation that is already rooted in our history.
Posted by Robert Kayihura, Director of Legal & Corporate Affairs, West, East, Central Africa (WECA), Microsoft
Imagine you’re in charge of a multinational organization. Some of you may be already, but most of us aren’t that lucky (or unlucky, depending on your point of view). But imagine that you are the CEO of ‘You Corp’. You and your board want to expand your business into different countries and sell your product to new customers. What three things should you look for in order to ensure your business takes off?
First, you’re looking for demand. If your company is not offering something that customers want, you may need to rethink your plans. Let’s assume You Corp’s product is the best in its category and something a lot of consumers want to own.
Second, you need a supply chain. You’ll be importing your goods at first (maybe forever), and you need assurance that your new market or region has a transportation network and customs infrastructure that can support truck-loads of your product coming in and landing on store shelves in good time.
For some, the third factor may come as a surprise: make sure your intellectual property (IP) will be protected. IP is essential for business success, regardless of product or geography. IP protection safeguards four very important assets: patents (your inventions); trademarks (the symbols and other designs that distinguish your product or company); trade secrets (the confidential business intelligence that gives your company a competitive advantage); and copyrights (works of authorship that lead to successful books, films, music and other creative expressions).
‘But IP merely funnels riches to the already-rich!’
Not so. The protection of IP is as important to start-up companies as it is to large and wealthy multinational organizations. IP protection is what gives small and start-up ventures the confidence to compete against more established firms; it offers the assurance that their investment of time, effort and money will be protected and ultimately rewarded with the growth and success they deserve. In fact, when it comes to start-up companies, their entire value is often based on their IP, and attracting funding is dependent on how well that IP is protected. This makes IP a primary factor in attracting outside investment - and that, after all, is an important way to stimulate national and regional economies not just in Africa, but across the world.
The importance of IP to economic development
It is well established that inventions protected by patents are worth on average 200% more than unprotected inventions. This doesn’t just mean more profit, it means more start-up capital, new and high paying jobs and services, and the creation of new industries. In turn, this all leads to increased economic growth and development which ultimately benefits society as a whole.
At the end of the day, IP protection is about fair competition. With a fair and level playing field, talented individuals, as well as small and mid-sized companies across Africa, will not only compete successfully against wealthy and more established multi-national companies, they will create jobs, improve people’s lives and help transform the region.