Microsoft 4Afrika Makes Headway In Drive For Innovation

Five years after the launch of its 4Afrika in initiative, Microsoft prides itself in being an innovation enabler across the African continent having been able to successfully develop affordable access to the internet, promote digital skills and create an environment that enables start-up success.

To give insight on the progress of the initiative after five years, Amrote Abdella, regional director, 4Afrika and Akin Banuso, country manager, Microsoft Nigeria, hosted a showcase event for the media in Lagos on, April 4, 2018. They shared details around the history and impact of the initiative in the region, as well as broader insights on how Nigeria is progressing in terms of its digital transformation.

According to Banuso, the 4Afrika initiative is apt, in response to digital transformation which has accelerated and has created very high opportunities in Nigeria.

“Nigeria is an important innovation hub – one which is largely influencing the digital transformation of West Africa,” says Abdella. “As technology becomes a larger part of our lives, businesses and industries, it’s essential to ensure meaningful and inclusive adoption. This can only be achieved by ensuring that youth, entrepreneurs and governments have affordable access to the internet, relevant digital skills and opportunities for innovation. Our three-pronged approach is empowering every person and organisation to take advantage of the technological age.”

Investing in start-ups

In partnership with the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF), 4Afrika is supporting entrepreneurs in the TEF Entrepreneurship Program in Nigeria and across the continent. This support includes providing access to cloud-based software, new markets, technical and business training, and 1:1 mentorship. Start-ups in the program can also apply to receive certified interns, who spend up to six months assisting with day-to-day operations.

The initiative has also partnered with local innovation hubs, accelerators and SME enablers – including AfriLabs, DEMO Africa and Seedstars – to offer support and training, and identify high potential start-ups for investment. Some of the Nigerian start-ups 4Afrika has invested in include Gamsole, MyMusic and SpacePointe.

Investing in skills

Microsoft 4Afrika says it has launched two AppFactories – or Apprenticeship Factories – in Nigeria, in partnership with local partners Lotus Beta Analytics and Sidmach Technologies Limited.

The AppFactory equips ICT graduates with in-demand skills and experience in designing and deploying modern software solutions, turning them into highly sought after software engineers. There are currently 16 AppFactories across the continent – including in Ghana, Egypt, Rwanda, Uganda, South Africa, Malawi, Kenya, Ethiopia and Mauritius – which have secured full-time employment for 85 percent of its graduates.

Investing in public-private partnerships

The 4Afrika Open4Business program recently launched in Nigeria, in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment (MITI). MITI is working with Microsoft to digitally transform the delivery of services to Nigeria’s investor community. MITI are vested in reducing the complexity, time and cost of complying with business governance and regulations, creating a more agile and investment-friendly environment and accelerating the pace of job creation.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA) have also formed strategic partnerships with 4Afrika, to develop access, innovation and skills in its member states. 4Afrika works closely with these two organisations, empowering them to create policies and regulations that promote ICT growth.

“These are the kind of innovations that will let us leapfrog old infrastructure concerns and accelerate digital transformation,” Banuso says.

He adds that the initiative is currently working with Andela on its learning community, to train 500 people and is aiming to equip even more people with digital skills.

Since 2013, 4Afrika has established 15 TV white spaces connectivity projects in six African countries, reached 1.7 million SMEs, brought 500,000 SMEs online, trained over half a million Africans and supported hundreds of local start-ups, enabling them to secure $5.1 million in reciprocal funding. BD

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