4Afrika’s new regional director, Amrote Abdella, talks candidly about her role and why 4Afrika’s mission is vital.
As Regional Director, I will be working to further Microsoft’s investments in Africa, deepen our engagements and scale our work across different markets. In reviewing the 4Afrika Initiative’s initial commitment, our focus is on how we continue to align to Microsoft’s mission statement: To empower every person and organisation on the planet to achieve more.
4Afrika was launched as, and continues to be, a platform to provide the tools and resources needed for Africans to innovate and use and consume technology; from the farmers to the teachers, the innovators, enterprises and government elites. Already, 4Afrika has empowered over 273 000 small-to-medium enterprises, 76 000 youth, 20 000 government employees, and 9 innovation hubs with access to technology, resources and world-class skills development. All of these people are now early adopters of Microsoft technologies, and users of the cloud.
Q: What inspires you most about working in Africa?
Creativity. I spent several years studying in the U.S, but eventually I knew it was time to return home to harness Africa’s innovative and creative potential. What excites me is that, with 4Afrika, we are helping people create solutions – turning challenges into opportunities that can be monetised. While Microsoft’s presence on the continent has played a large role in informing the company’s research and development of products that meet local needs, key to 4Afrika is the notion that Africans should not just be consumers of content, but creators of it. My goal is to make sure Africans are not just being empowered with technology, but are also building their own solutions relevant to their day-to-day lives.
Q: Cloud computing is seen as central to growth in the region, and is a big focus for Microsoft. What is the relevance of the personal cloud in a region where many people still don’t have internet access?
The 4Afrika Initiative is perfectly aligned to accelerate Cloud adoption for the African continent by encouraging the creation of locally relevant content and solutions. Governments have done incredibly well to build network infrastructure, such as fibre optics and undersea cables to connect the population. We realise that there is a last-mile connectivity gap, which is why under our 'Access’ pillar 4Afrika is partnering with regulatory authorities to expand the roll-out of TV white spaces technology.
For many people, Cloud is ubiquitous. For example, mobile payments solution M-PESA, or the world’s first mobile money accounting solution, MyAccounts, developed by Ugandan business, MMINDZ to address African business challenges. Or AGIN, an application that allows un-banked farmers to build a credit history and receive loans through a feature phones. Innovations like these show how Africa is perfectly positioned to become a global leader in the mobile-first, cloud-first world.
Q: What has been a highlight of your career?
Working with great visionaries at Microsoft and having our work validated from around the world. When Satya Nadella came to visit the Mawingu project our first TV white spaces project in Kenya, to see first-hand how we are getting people connected and exposed to technology, it was a wonderful moment. 4Afrika is about accelerating technology for Africa – to build an ecosystem of tech-savvy, skilled entrepreneurs and workers with the 21st Century skills needed to take the economy forward. At the same time, winning mindshare on the continent.
Q: What is one of your greatest challenges?
It is wonderful to be part of a company like Microsoft that believes in the Africa rising story, but can also turn the challenges into opportunities. 4Afrika has a unique value proposition for colleagues within Microsoft and externals. I call on Microsoft employees and our partners to see 4Afrika as an initiative they can derive value from.
Q: What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Spending time with my eight month old daughter 🙂