Microsoft Introduces the 4Afrika Initiative to Help Improve the Continent's Global Competitiveness

Mon Feb 4, 2013 7:00pm EST

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Efforts focus on accelerating adoption of smart devices, empowering small and
medium-sized businesses, and raising skills development to ignite African
innovation for the continent and for the world.
REDMOND, Wash.,  Feb. 4, 2013  /PRNewswire/ -- Microsoft Corp. today introduced
the Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative, a new effort through which the company will
actively engage in  Africa's economic development to improve its global
competitiveness. By 2016, the 4Afrika Initiative plans to help place tens of
millions of smart devices in the hands of African youth, bring 1 million African
small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) online, upskill 100,000 members of 
Africa's existing workforce, and help an additional 100,000 recent graduates
develop employability skills, 75 percent of whom Microsoft will help place in
jobs.

(Logo:   http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20000822/MSFTLOGO)  

"The world has recognized the promise of  Africa, and Microsoft wants to invest
in that promise. We want to empower African youth, entrepreneurs, developers,
and business and civic leaders to turn great ideas into a reality that can help
their community, their country, the continent and beyond," said  Fernando de
Sousa, general manager, 4Afrika Initiative. "The 4Afrika Initiative is built on
the dual beliefs that technology can accelerate growth for  Africa, and  Africa 
can also accelerate technology for the world."

As a first critical step toward increasing the adoption of smart devices,
Microsoft and Huawei are introducing the Huawei 4Afrika, a full-functionality
Windows Phone 8, which will come preloaded with select applications designed for
 Africa. The phone will initially be available in  Angola,  Egypt,  Ivory Coast,
 Kenya,  Morocco,  Nigeria  and  South Africa  later this month. The Huawei
4Afrika phone, which is the first in a series of smart devices designed
"4Afrika," will be targeted toward university students, developers and
first-time smartphone users to ensure they have affordable access to
best-in-class technology to enable them to connect, collaborate, and access
markets and opportunities online. (See related  release  and  blog.)

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

To help empower African SMEs, Microsoft announced a new SME Online Hub through
which African SMEs will have access to free, relevant products and services from
Microsoft and other partners. The hub will aggregate the available services,
which can help SMEs expand their businesses locally, find new business
opportunities outside their immediate geographies and help increase their
overall competitiveness. As a welcome offer, Microsoft will provide free domain
registration for one year and free tools for SMEs interested in creating a
professional Web presence. The hub is expected to initially open in April in 
South Africa  and  Morocco  and will expand to other African markets over time.

To accelerate capacity building and skills development, Microsoft has
established the Afrika Academy, an education platform leveraging online and
offline learning tools, to help Africans develop both technical and business
skills for entrepreneurship and improved employability. Training through the
Afrika Academy will be available starting in March at no cost to recent higher
education graduates, government leaders and the Microsoft partner community. One
of the first offline training sessions will take place with Microsoft-managed
partners in  Ivory Coast  in the coming months, focusing on capacity building in
business and technical skills for Microsoft's partners in Francophone West
Africa.

The 4Afrika Initiative will be tightly connected to Microsoft's network of more
than 10,000 existing partners in  Africa  today, a network it has built through
more than 20 years of investing and operating in the continent. The 4Afrika
Initiative will leverage these existing partnerships and create new ones across
the public and private sectors to help advance common goals and to create value
for Africans. Together with its partners, Microsoft has initiated various other
efforts in recent months as part of the 4Afrika Initiative:

* AppFactory (South Africa  and  Egypt).  Microsoft is hiring 30 paid student
interns to staff the AppFactory - centers to which the public can submit
requests for  Africa-relevant Windows applications (Windows 8 or Windows Phone).
These requests are being crowdsourced for voting, and the most popular ideas are
assigned development resources to build and launch the apps in the Windows
Store. Already, the AppFactory teams have built 73 Windows apps and 39 Windows
Phone apps, and at full capacity, the teams plan to contribute approximately 90
new apps to the Windows Store per month.  
* Nokia and Windows Phone user training (Kenya  and  Nigeria).  Microsoft has
established agreements with Safaricom in  Kenya  and Bharti Airtel in  Nigeria 
to accelerate local adoption of the Nokia Lumia 510 and Nokia Lumia 620 Windows
Phones. In  Nigeria, 95 percent of phones sold are feature phones. Through these
agreements, Microsoft is funding in-store training for consumers who purchase
these Nokia models with a data plan. The training explains the benefits of
owning a smartphone, helping make these smartphones better understood and,
therefore, more desirable for consumers.  
* Female empowerment portal (North Africa).  This portal targeted at North
African women will launch in March as an offshoot of the  MasrWorks  IT skills
portal. It is designed to empower young women to play a leadership role in their
communities, build their skills and self-esteem, and introduce new models for
self-employment. It will provide IT skills training and softer-skills training
on topics including leadership, self-confidence and interviewing, as well as the
mentorship needed to build a long-term career in technology. The mentorship will
be provided via a sustained engagement between Microsoft, its partners, a  local
NGO  and the beneficiaries to support them in career building and to plan their
role in society as female leaders.

"We believe there has never been a better time to invest in  Africa  and that
access to technology - particularly cloud services and smart devices - can and
will serve as a great accelerator for African competitiveness," said 
Jean-Philippe Courtois, president of Microsoft International. "The launches of
Windows 8 and many other new products in the coming months represent a new era
for Microsoft, which we believe will redefine the technology industry globally.
These additional investments under the 4Afrika banner will help define our
company's new era in  Africa."  

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

More information can be found at  http://www.microsoft.com/4Afrika.

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) is the worldwide leader in software,
services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full
potential.

SOURCE  Microsoft Corp.


Rapid Response Team, Waggener Edstrom Worldwide, +1-503-443-7070,
rrt@waggeneredstrom.com

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