Microsoft has launched its 4Afrika Initiative, intended to help push economic development on the continent in a number of ways, including bringing smart devices to tens of millions of young Africans.
To this end, Microsoft is partnering with Huawei to launch the Huawei 4Afrika, a customised version of its Ascend W1 Window Phone 8 device, pre-loaded with specially selected apps and targeted at university students, developers and first-time smartphone users. The handset, which is the first in a series of '4Afrika' devices, will be available in Angola, Egypt, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria and South Africa later this month.
It's a big project, with many facets. Microsoft has signed agreements with Safaricom in Kenya and Bharti Airtel in Nigeria to accelerate local adoption of Nokia Lumia handsets to fund in-store training for consumers looking to make the jump from feature phones.
The company is also working with the Kenyan Ministry of Information and Communications and ISP Indigo Telecom, on a low-cost wireless broadband pilot, 'Mawingu', intended to bring high-speed internet access to areas currently lacking even basic electricity.
Meanwhile, on the jobs and business side, Microsoft has committed to bringing 1m African SMEs (Small and Medium-sized Enterprises) online, up-skilling 100,000 members of Africa’s workforce, and help 100,000 graduates develop employability skills – and place 75 per cent of them in jobs. More immediately, it's hiring 30 paid student interns to work at its AppFactory centres, which develop Africa-relevant Windows apps based on requests from the public. So far, AppFactory teams have built 73 Windows apps and 39 Windows Phone apps. Once at full capacity, Microsoft expects them to contribute approximately 90 new apps to the Windows Store per month.