Africa is Microsoft’s second biggest investment – Microsoft SA MD

Microsoft South Africa’s Managing Director Mteto Nyati (image: Charlie Fripp)

Technology giant Microsoft last week announced a partnership with the South African government’s Jobs Fund – an alliance that will provide assistance to small technology businesses.

Microsoft South Africa’s Managing Director Mteto Nyati (image: Charlie Fripp)
Microsoft South Africa’s Managing Director Mteto Nyati (Image source: Charlie Fripp)

Microsoft South Africa’s Managing Director Mteto Nyati sat down with ITNewsAfrica to discuss why Microsoft has invested so heavily in Africa.

Nyati explained that although Microsoft is indeed heavily invested in the African continent, with projects such as the newly-announced BizSpark and Microsoft’s 4Afrika initiative, the company is always very involved in the local economies of all territories where the company has a presence.

“What I have seen within Microsoft is that they put a lot of emphasis on the local people – meaning they try to be relevant in each and every geography that they operate in. If you go to Brazil, the things they do there talk to Brazilian priorities,” he said.

He added that as a continent, Africa is the second biggest investment that Microsoft has made and the region is a focal point for many leaders within the software giant. “What we have seen here … is that there are many different leaders of Microsoft within Africa. So, the leaders came together to better understand Africa. Africa is the second biggest investment that Microsoft has made, after China. That shows how important they see the continent,” Nyati told IT News Africa.

Prior to joining Microsoft, Nyati was employed at IBM for 12 years. Referring to his appointment as Managing Director for Microsoft South Africa, Nyati revealed that during his interview recruiters were clear in their expectation of local relevance.

“The thing they said to me upfront is that they wanted somebody who is going to help our company be relevant locally – that is different. Which means that you design your local strategy, …within certain parameters of course as you can’t change everything. But most of the time, you are given the room to be able to design your local strategy.”

Microsoft’s BizSpark is aimed at supporting small businesses and Nyati explained that helping these companies grow also reflects positively on Microsoft as a whole.

“If you look at the area where we believe we can make the biggest difference, our strategy is that of a Device and Services company – we have transformed from a software company to that of Devices and Services. We looked at who would be benefitting from Device and Cloud Services, and found that it would be small business.”

By providing small businesses with the necessary tools to drive business forward, Microsoft believes that it will narrow the gap between large corporations and their smaller counterparts – which will give the smaller entities a fighting chance in a very competitive market.

“If you are looking at what is the biggest impact of cloud services, it levels the playing field between large companies and small companies. A small company can now have the same access to technologies that only large companies in the past could. So that is what we like about this whole thing (BizSpark project) – it levels the playing field, it helps small companies to compete. And the growth of those small companies is also the key to our own growth. As they grow, we grow, so there is a win-win for everyone. So that is why it is important. It is linked to our growth as well.”

The BizSpark project is currently targeting 600 small businesses and Nyati hopes to see those companies grow beyond the borders of South Africa.

“When we are talking about the BizSpark project, we are targeting six hundred companies. My hope is that these companies won’t only be successful here, but across the globe. So the intent is to build companies that are going to be globally competitive – companies that address the needs of emerging markets. That is the intent.”

To make a comparison, Nyati said that he would like to see more companies emulate the success of South African IT services provider Dimension Data.

“We want to see the Dimension Datas of tomorrow. About 20 years ago they were a small company, look at where they are today. Why can’t we have companies like that coming from South Africa – coming from the BizSpark group. We have the skills here and we have really quite capable people here – people who understand the needs, people who can come up with Intellectual Property, but we need to think big.”

Charlie Fripp – Consumer Tech editor