SEATTLE, Washington – Microsoft is planning to invest $ 100 million in Africa's software development initiatives over the next ten years, a further demonstration of the company's continued commitment to continental digitization. Microsoft's Africa Development Centers will open in Lagos, Nigeria and Nairobi in Kenya by the end of 2019.
A rare opportunity despite available talents
Nigeria and Kenya have become important technology centers, but the lack of opportunities for local software engineers has resulted in the exodus of talents. Microsoft hopes to reverse this trend by setting up development centers in these countries to hire, retain and nurture domestic talent. Microsoft hopes to hire 100 full-time programmers by the end of 2019 and increase this number by 2023 to 500.
Microsoft's Africa Development Centers will create opportunities for engineers to be part of the global software development network without having to leave their country. The initiative will also create opportunities within the community, enabling programmers to stay with their families while developing their career.
Fast digitization in Africa
The young and digitally populated population in Africa is rapidly fueling demand for data services. Currently, African consumers account for more than half of the total number of mobile banking users in the world. Harvard Business Review predicts that by 2022 Africa will be home to more than 636 million smartphone users. African use of cloud technologies such as Microsoft Azure will also grow as e-commerce and mobile payments become the common aspects of retail sales on the Internet.
Despite the high demand for digital services, the Internet and mobile infrastructure in Africa is currently underdeveloped. Two thirds of Africans do not have access to the Internet, and those who have access to the Internet have slower and more expensive services compared to users on other continents. This is something that companies take into consideration.
The rapid digitization of the continent, however, has not gone unnoticed. A recent visit by the executive director of Facebook to Mark Zuckerberg, Nigeria, has put an emphasis on the growing digital industry in Africa. Other technological giants, such as Amazon and Huawei, are planning to develop initiatives such as Microsoft's Africa Development Centers. Their plans focus primarily on fully integrating African users into their cloud technology and ensuring that 1.2 billion users will be able to experience complete, uninterrupted functionality of their services.
Investing in today and the future
Microsoft's Africa Development Centers will engage teams of engineers and developers of projects that include mixed reality, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. Microsoft's initiatives will use not only current software developers, but also future talents. Working with local universities, the company plans to work with young software developers to create unique compatibility issues when using Microsoft Azure. Cultivating and strengthening local technology niches creates positive externalities for local businesses as well.
Using its growing presence, Microsoft has already started partnerships with Kenya and Nigeria companies to implement innovative business solutions such as FinTech, AgriTech, and OffGrid Energy, helping to modernize business. In this way, African companies can become more rational and competitive with companies around the world that already use these technologies. Andela, an African start-up company that actively recruits software engineers and trains them to become fully employable developers across the continent, will see more opportunities offered by Microsoft's initiative.
African technology development centers are currently concentrated in Lagos, Nairobi, Johannesburg and Cape Town, but African software entrepreneurs hope that these initiatives will create a sprawl that will expand into smaller cities. Microsoft's Africa Development Centers in partnership with companies like Andel help the continent to reach its enormous digital potential.
– Julian Mok