Posted by Aben Kovoor
Area Lead, Developer & Platform Group, Microsoft Middle East & Africa
To help accelerate the success of entrepreneurs and early stage startups across the African continent, we were proud to announce our support last month for the LIONS@FRICA initiative in partnership with U.S. Department of State, U.S. Agency for International Development, African Development Bank, Nokia, infoDev and DEMO and the World Economic Forum. The partnership aims to mobilize the knowledge, expertise and resources of leading public and private institutions to encourage and enhance Africa’s innovation ecosystem, and spur entrepreneurship across the continent.
We are delighted to be a core member of this initiative announced last month at the World Economic Forum Africa 2012, and our investment is a natural extension of the work we have driven over the past 20 years to support entrepreneurship and innovation in Africa. With six of the world’s ten fastest-growing economies over the past decade in sub-Saharan Africa and the awakening of the African economy providing new prospects, we are keen to continue dedicating resources to working with entrepreneurs to help them realize their potential and take advantage of these opportunities.
We are fully aware that that the success of a startup hangs on its ability to monetize ideas as quickly as possible. To minimize the initial costs associated with development and testing, we made available the Microsoft BizSpark program across the African continent, thereby providing over 600 African startups and 188 Network Partners with fast and easy access to full featured Microsoft developer tools and platform licenses. With the consistent developer taxonomy and tight integration across Windows, entrepreneurs can focus on differentiating their innovations from the competition, not platform interoperability.
We built upon the support provided by the Microsoft BizSpark Program by giving entrepreneurs access to Microsoft Innovation Centers – world-class facilities that help foster the local software economy by providing qualified startups with access to infrastructure, technical and business mentorships. These are offered in partnership with local organizations such as academic institutions, technology hubs and our certified training partners where available. Other readiness activities include specific training for startups such as the Build Your Business program, which provides the skills needed to lead and grow businesses through improved knowledge and technology know-how.
Finally, to ensure entrepreneurs and innovators have the means to also market their ideas and solutions, we provide them visibility across the globe through both our internal and external networks. Imagine Cup is but one example of this, where the next generation of developers use technology to solve the world’s toughest problems. Last year, 1,300 students across 32 countries in Africa, participated in Imagine Cup, showcasing such entries as PAGEL, a database developed by Senegalese students that helps identify markets and places where food is available at lower prices. This year, a student team from Makerere University in Uganda has secured a place in Imagine Cup’s Worldwide Finals in Sydney for their application that aids midwives in their diagnoses for expectant mothers.
These are just a few examples of how Microsoft is enabling and supporting innovation in Africa to help build vibrant and self-sustaining local economies, and we expect our partnership with the experts at LIONS@FRICA to give us a fresh, new perspective as well. But for those start-ups who have ideas for action now, I would encourage you to:
- Register for BizSpark, so one of our network partners can provide you access to the development tools you need.
- Register with DEMO Africa 2012 in Nairobi on October 24-26, 2012, where you may qualify to present your product/solution to investors from around the world.
- Get in touch with your nearest Microsoft subsidiary to sign up for our training sessions on how to develop applications on our platforms.