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Microsoft to support 10,000 African start-ups over next 5yrs

Under the remit of its recently established Africa Transformation Office (ATO), Microsoft has announced new initiatives to accelerate the growth of 10,000 African startups and fast-track investment in Africa’s start-up ecosystem over the next five years.

Microsoft’s recently launched global Founders Hub will now be available to African start-ups through the ATO. The Founders Hub is a self-service hub that provides start-ups with a wide range of resources, including access to mentors, skilling content, tools like Microsoft Azure and GitHub, and go-to-market and business support.

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

To enable start-ups to rapidly scale using investment funding, Microsoft is establishing industry alliances and partnerships with venture capital investors that will facilitate access to $500 million in potential funding for African start-ups. This funding will come from a network of venture capital investors, that will dedicate a portion of their financial support to start-ups in the Microsoft network.

Microsoft has already established partnerships with several key venture capital investors, including Banque Misr, Global Venture Capital and Get Funded Africa, and the intention is to grow this network of venture capital investors in the next five years to increase funding and enable them to scale up and drive economic growth.

Africa’s start-up market is booming

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

“Investments into Africa’s start-up ecosystem are growing at an exciting pace. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), there are more than 640 active tech hubs across Africa, accelerating innovation and creating employment, particularly among the youth”, says Wael Elkabbany, Managing Director, Microsoft Africa Transformation Office.

“However,” Elkabbany points out, “currently, the African startup market represents less than one percent of total investments worldwide. This needs to change.”

He reveals that Microsoft’s endeavour to dramatically scale its impact will be driven by an overarching strategy with three key focus areas.

The Founders Hub

The Founders Hub includes opportunities for start-ups to sell to Microsoft’s corporate and enterprise customers. Microsoft will also support start-ups in geo-expansion activities, where start-ups can scale up by selling in new countries or regions.

“The Founders Hub allows Microsoft to engage with accelerators, incubators and tech hubs across the continent. Our partnerships with key African accelerators provide crucial support to accelerate growth-stage start-ups, with their business development and market expansion plans,” says Gerald Maithya, Startups Lead, Microsoft Africa Transformation Office.

Partnerships with key start-ups

Microsoft will partner with B2B-focused startups, scaleups, “soonicorns” (businesses with the potential to become unicorns) and unicorns across a range of leading African industries, and those concentrated on working with SMEs.

“We understand that each start-up is unique and exists beyond the limitations of a one-size-fits-all partnership model. This is why Microsoft will tailor each partnership to the needs of individual start-ups, providing support and access – whether to technology, markets and co-sell opportunities, funding or digital skills – to enable them to grow and contribute to the wider economic growth of Africa,” says Maithya.

The primary goal of these partnerships will be to provide support in one or more of the following areas:

  • Access to technology: Spanning from the provision of cloud credits and developer and productivity tools like GitHub for accessing Microsoft’s traditional partner ecosystem, technical support and enablement. This also includes contact with Microsoft’s engineering and product teams for the purpose of co-innovation.
  • Access to markets: Including the opportunity to co-sell with Microsoft from the SME Marketplace and the ability to partner with Microsoft on expansion activities, together with access to relevant enterprise and government partners. Microsoft will empower start-ups to scale to new levels through geographical expansion into new countries and co-selling opportunities.
  • Access to funds: Microsoft’s partnerships with venture capital investors will provide qualified start-ups with access to funding.
  • Access to skilling enablement: Microsoft will provide a seamless, self-contained package of high-quality skilling content. From a single interface, startups will be able to access multiple technical, self-paced trainings, workshops, instructor-led sessions and virtual training. This platform will also offer growth learning tracks aimed at empowering start-ups to achieve more. As part of the engagement model to reach as many start-ups as possible, Microsoft will also be looking at partnering with government start-up programmes, regional ecosystems of startup networks and associations, and accelerators.

Partnerships with venture capital investors

Microsoft is establishing partnerships with venture capital investors, primarily those with global reach and regional bases, who are interested in one or more regions within Africa.

“Our goal in establishing these partnerships with venture capital investors is to extend the network of potential partnerships between Microsoft, venture capital investors and star-tups, thereby increasing the funding made available to eligible start-ups,” continued Maithya.

Elkabbany concludes, “There is huge potential for Africa to become a thriving hub of digital innovation on the global startup landscape. Our ambition is to see an explosion of local invention that will contribute positively, not just to Africa’s digital economy, but to the global society.”

About Microsoft

Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Its mission is to empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more. For more information, news and insights from Microsoft, please visit Microsoft’s News Centre Middle East & Africa.

The opportunity in Africa is immense, but there is a pressing need to adopt digital platforms to accelerate Africa’s economic growth and better enable Africans to participate in the global digital economy. Through the Africa Transformation Office, Microsoft focuses on four essential development areas – digital infrastructure, skilling, SMEs and start-ups, supported by strategic partnerships with industry alliances and coalitions, to fuel investment in Africa and further establish the continent’s export of digital services.

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