Microsoft is turning to Africa for future growth opportunities. As part of this new push, the US software giant and Chinese telecommunications equipment company Huawei are set to unveil a new, low-cost Windows Phone 8-powered smartphone aimed at the African market at events in Johannesburg, Abidjan, Lagos, Nairobi and Cairo on Tuesday.
Late on Monday night, Microsoft announced a new project called the 4Afrika Initiative, under which it wants to get tens of millions of Windows Phone-based smart devices in the hands of young Africans; bring a million African small and medium-sized enterprises online; train 100 000 skills; and help an additional 100 000 recent graduates develop “employability skills”, 75% of whom the company says it will help place in jobs.
Microsoft has confirmed it is investing US$70m in the initiative.
The first step of the initiative involves the introduction of Huawei 4Africa, a Windows Phone 8 smartphone that will come preloaded with selected applications “designed for Africa”. The phone will be available at launch in South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Morocco, Egypt, Angola and Côte d’Ivoire.
The phone is the first in a series of devices that will be branded “4Afrika”. The Huawei phone will be targeted at university students, developers and first-time smartphone users, Microsoft says in a statement published on its website.
In addition, Microsoft has also announced a pilot project involving Internet service provider Indigo Telecom to deliver “low-cost, high-speed” wireless broadband in Kenya. It involves the use of solar-powered base stations and will use so-called television white-spaces spectrum — the unused gaps of spectrum between television channels. Google is sponsoring a similar trial in Cape Town.
Microsoft says it hopes to implement similar projects to the Kenyan one elsewhere in East Africa and Southern Africa in coming months. “These pilots will be used to encourage other African countries to accelerate legislation that will allow this TV white-space technology to deliver on the promise of universal access for Africa,” it says.
At the same time, Microsoft will take the wraps off a new “SME Online Hub” on Tuesday. This hub will provide free products and services from Microsoft and its partners to small and medium enterprises on the continent. Microsoft will offer free domain registration for a year as well as free tools for those wanting to create a website. It will be available first in South Africa and Morocco and will expand to other markets over time.
Lastly, the software company is establishing AppFactory, centres to which members of the public can submit request for Africa-relevant Windows Phone and Windows applications. These requests will be put to a public vote and the most popular ideas will be assigned development resources. Two centres are being established, one in South Africa and the other in Egypt. — (c) 2013 NewsCentral Media
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