Microsoft focuses on mobile, pilots solar-powered broadband as part of Africa initiative

Microsoft is launching with Huawei a custom Windows Phone 8 smartphone for Africa

By , IDG News Service |  Networking

Microsoft is collaborating with the Kenyan government and a local Internet service provider to provide broadband access using TV white spaces and solar-powered base stations, as part of a long-term strategy to spread mobile telephony and Internet connectivity in Africa.

The company is also launching with Huawei Technologies a smartphone for the African market, with other smart devices to follow.

The plans are part of Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative, which aims by 2016 to have tens of millions of smart devices in the hands of African youth. Microsoft also aims to bring 1 million African small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) online, train 100,000 members of Africa's existing workforce, and help an additional 100,000 recent graduates develop skills to improve their employability, 75 percent of whom Microsoft will help place in jobs, the company said.

"When we look at the world, many see China or the BRIC [Brazil, Russia, India, China] countries as the next big opportunity for growth. At Microsoft, we view the African continent as a game-changer in the global economy," wrote Ali Faramawy, corporate vice president of Microsoft Middle East & Africa in a blog post on Monday.

Microsoft is introducing in seven African countries a mobile phone from Huawei called the Huawei 4Afrika, which is described as a full-function Windows Phone 8 smartphone, which will come preloaded with select applications designed for Africa. The phone will be available later in this quarter from Huawei in Egypt, Nigeria, Kenya, Ivory Coast, Angola, Morocco and South Africa, the Chinese company said.

Huawei already has a strong presence in Africa, and has worked with more than 18 African governments to build e-Government networks in countries such as Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Senegal, Angola, Guinea, and Djibouti, the company said.

Microsoft said it plans to launch a series of smart 4Afrika devices, though according to reports these could come from other vendors. Another part of the 4Afrika initiative, for example, is a joint Nokia and Microsoft customer training program in Kenya and Nigeria to help accelerate adoption of Nokia Lumia 510 and 620 phones.

GSMA said in November that sub-Saharan Africa is the fastest-growing mobile market in the world, with an average annual growth rate of 44 per cent since 2000. Mobile connections have increased to 475 million, compared to 12.3 million fixed line connections, the association said.

Microsoft is hiring 30 paid student interns to staff an AppFactory to which the public can submit requests for Africa-relevant Windows applications.

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