Assessing Microsoft’s five-year plan for the African start-up market

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Mar 08 (THEWILL) – The opportunities for digital progress in Africa are immense, but there is an urgent need to embrace digital platforms to accelerate Africa’s economic growth and better enable Africans to participate in the digital economy world.

Through the Africa Transformation Office (ATO), Microsoft has focused on four critical areas of development including: digital infrastructure, skills, SMEs and startups, supported by strategic partnerships with alliances and industrial coalitions, to stimulate investment in Africa and further establish the continent’s export. of digital services.

In line with their goal and to accelerate the growth of 10,000 African startups and accelerate investments in the African startup ecosystem over the next five years, Microsoft announced new initiatives under its Africa Transformation Office (ATO) recently. created.

Recently, Microsoft launched the Global Founders Hub, which will now be available to African startups through the ATO. The Founders Hub is a self-service hub that provides startups with a wide range of resources, including access to mentors, skills content, tools like Microsoft Azure and GitHub, and business and sales support .

Microsoft is also creating new partnerships with accelerators and incubators across Africa, including Grindstone, Greenhouse, FlapMax and Seedstars to provide industry-based startups with access to markets, technical skills and funding opportunities. These partnerships will provide African startups with access to training programs, access to markets, including co-selling opportunities with Microsoft, and access to technology, with support from Microsoft’s engineering and product teams. for co-innovation opportunities.

To enable startups to grow rapidly through investment funding, Microsoft is establishing alliances and industry partnerships with venture capitalists that will facilitate access to $500 million in potential funding for African startups. This funding will come from a network of venture capitalists, who will dedicate part of their financial support to startups in the Microsoft network.

Microsoft has already partnered with several key venture capitalists, including Banque Misr, Global Venture Capital and Get Funded Africa, and the intention is to grow this network of venture capitalists over the next five years. to increase funding and allow them to grow. and stimulate economic growth.

The boom of the startup market in Africa

Microsoft believes that Africa’s vibrant startup market is well positioned to become the cornerstone of the continent’s digital economy, supporting local innovation through relevant solutions to societal challenges.

Commenting, Wael Elkabbany, Managing Director, Microsoft Africa Transformation Office, said, “Investment in the startup ecosystem in Africa is growing at an exciting pace. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), there are more than 640 active tech hubs across Africa, accelerating innovation and creating jobs, especially among young people”.

Further explaining, Elkabbany added “currently, the African startup market represents less than 1% of total investment globally. This must change.

Elkabbany reveals that Microsoft’s efforts to dramatically increase its impact will be guided by an overarching strategy with three key focus areas.

The Founders Hub

The Founders Hub includes opportunities for startups to sell to Microsoft enterprises and enterprise customers. Microsoft will also support startups in geo-expansion activities, where startups can expand by selling into new countries or regions.

Gerald Maithya, Head of Startups, Microsoft Africa Transformation Office, also commented, “The Founders Hub enables Microsoft to engage with accelerators, incubators and technology hubs across the continent. Our partnerships with key African accelerators provide crucial support to accelerate growth-stage startups in their business development and market expansion plans.”

Partnerships with key startups

Microsoft will partner with B2B-focused startups, scale-ups, sounicorns (companies with the potential to become unicorns) and unicorns across a range of leading African industries, and those focused on working with SMEs.

According to Maithya, “We understand that every startup is unique and exists beyond the confines of a single partnership model. That’s why Microsoft will tailor each partnership to each startup’s needs, providing support and access – whether that’s whether to technology, markets and co-selling opportunities, finance or digital skills – to enable them to grow and contribute to Africa’s broader economic growth.”

The primary focus of these partnerships, Maithya informed, will be to provide support in one or more of the following areas:

Access to technology: Ranging from providing cloud credits and development and productivity tools like GitHub to accessing Microsoft’s traditional partner ecosystem, technical support and activation. This also includes contact with Microsoft’s engineering and product teams for co-innovation purposes.

Access to markets: including the ability to co-sell with Microsoft from the SMB market and the ability to partner with Microsoft on expansion activities, as well as access to relevant business and government partners. Microsoft will enable startups to scale to new levels through geographic expansion into new countries and co-selling opportunities.

Access to funds: Microsoft’s partnerships with venture capitalists will provide qualified startups with access to funding.

Access to Skills Activation: Microsoft will provide a consistent, self-contained set of high-quality skills content. From a single interface, startups will be able to access multiple technical, self-paced training, workshops, instructor-led sessions, and virtual training. This platform will also offer growth learning avenues aimed at empowering startups to achieve more. As part of the engagement model to reach as many startups as possible, Microsoft will also consider partnering with government startup programs, regional ecosystems of startup networks and associations, and accelerators.

Partnerships with venture capitalists

According to Maithya, Microsoft partners with venture capitalists, primarily those with global reach and regional bases, who are interested in one or more regions of Africa.

“Our goal in establishing these partnerships with venture capitalists is to expand the network of potential partnerships between Microsoft, venture capitalists and startups, thereby increasing the funding available to eligible startups,” said Maithya added.

Elkabbany, however, concludes that “there is huge potential for Africa to become a thriving digital innovation hub in the global startup landscape. Our ambition is to see an explosion of local inventions that will contribute positively, not only to the African digital economy, but to global society”.

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