Posted by Fernando de Sousa
General manager, Africa Initiatives at Microsoft
This week, Cape Town is hosting the World Economic Forum for Africa (WEF) and I’m lucky enough to be attending. The WEF covers almost 30 different topic areas that together hold the key to Africa’s continued and increased expansion and economic development. The potential for positive change is huge, which is why I’m so excited to be here and to meet likeminded people who have the ideas and energy to help Africa thrive in the digital age.
Microsoft’s 4Afrika Initiative is itself trying to achieve more for Africa (it’s in the name!). 4Afrika was launched in February with the aim of improving Africa’s global competitiveness through technology. Two of our stated goals are to make affordable smart devices available to Africa’s youth and to test unused TV broadcast radio frequencies (known as ‘white space’ frequencies) to increase Internet access in underserved areas. In February in Kenya, we launched Project Mawingu, our first white spaces project in Africa.
Today, I’m excited to announce another white spaces collaboration aimed at connecting African students and teachers and giving them the opportunity to engage in the global – and borderless – digital dialogue. In Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, we are working alongside the Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH) and local internet service provider UhuruOne to get tens of thousands of university students and faculty members better connected by installing low-cost wireless broadband access at the University of Dar es Salaam, amongst others, and to provide affordable Windows devices and relevant services. [See press release for more information]
Projects like this are part of our overall 4Afrika strategy to engage in Africa’s development, address youth unemployment, help recent graduates develop skills for employability, and support the development of young software developers and entrepreneurs.
The three principal themes of this year’s WEF Africa are ‘Accelerating Economic Diversification’, ‘Boosting Strategic Infrastructure’ and ‘Unlocking Africa’s Talent’. We believe 4Afrika serves all three of these themes. Hyper-connectivity is vital to the economic and social development of the continent, and improving access through initiatives like 4Afrika will help achieve these critical goals.
We’re proud to say that Microsoft 4Afrika is gaining momentum. Since launch we’ve seen nearly 400 apps created by our AppFactory interns, and we’ve touched more than 1,100 developers through DevCamps in Kenya, Ghana, Rwanda and Tunisia alone. We’ve also trained around 1,100 partners and government leaders across 14 countries through our Afrika Academy. We’re just getting started, so we’re looking forward to the time here at WEF Africa this week to make sure that as a community, we are working together to pursue common goals and to accelerate African competitiveness and innovation.