As part of the recently launched Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative, Microsoft has announced a strategic cooperation with business incubator iHub and the m:lab East Africa consortium to enable startups, innovators and the developer community of East Africa to grow their skills and build businesses with Microsoft technologies.
The cooperation further aims to offer these communities increased access to software, skills development opportunities and a means through which innovative startups can access capital investment and benefit from international outreach.
iHub is an innovation hub for the technology community that comprises an open space made available for technologists, investors and tech companies in Kenya and surrounding areas. m:lab is a consortium of four organizations that aims to be a leader in identifying, nurturing and helping to build sustainable enterprises in the knowledge economy. Together, they actively support the growth of entrepreneurs in Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, Somalia and Southern Sudan.
Microsoft will cooperate with the iHub and m:lab network on multiple projects spanning these countries, including the following:
· Supporting the startup community with Microsoft BizSpark memberships, trainings, participation in events, and access to business networking and capital investment opportunities. BizSpark is a global program that helps startups grow into successful businesses through software support and a vibrant ecosystem that delivers exceptional business advantage. BizSpark has supported 625 African startups since the program was first introduced in 2009.
· Enabling developers to access the latest events and workshops on Microsoft’s newest development technologies through iHub and m:lab community events, including trainings with the iHub UX lab.
· Establishing a physical presence in iHub and m:lab facilities at which Microsoft devices, including Windows Phones and Windows-based tablets, will be available for testing applications and other software developed by the local IT communities.
· Establishing a connection between the iHub Research team and Microsoft Research to enable access to research tools and collaboration on mutually beneficial projects.
· Enabling collaboration between the iHub Consulting team and Microsoft Consulting Services on joint customer projects.
Speaking today at the Innovation Africa Digital Summit in Ethiopia, Fernando de Sousa, general manager, Microsoft Africa Initiatives, said, “Microsoft sees tremendous potential in African youth, developers and entrepreneurs, and we see this collaboration with iHub and m:lab as an excellent way to quickly and directly engage with these critical communities to listen to how we can best support their ambitions and goals. It is our hope that this collaboration will help many more African startups become strong players in the information and communication technology sector at a global scale.”
Erik Hersman, managing director and founder of iHub, added, “We are very pleased to establish this cooperation with Microsoft, spanning the iHub ecosystem, to enable 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. Microsoft is clearly a brand that developers and startups want to engage with, and we look forward to this collaboration, which will accelerate the development of technology across East Africa.”
The Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative is designed to help Africa improve its global competitiveness. By 2016, various efforts under the 4Afrika banner spanning the continent, such as this new collaboration with iHub and m:lab, will help place tens of millions of smart devices in the hands of African youth, bring 1 million African small and medium-size enterprises online, upskill 100,000 members of Africa’s existing workforce, and help an additional 100,000 recent graduates develop skills for employability, 75 percent of which Microsoft will help place in jobs.