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Microsoft announces new initiatives to support 10,000 African startups

AFRICA – Microsoft, a technology corporation, has announced new initiatives to accelerate the growth of 10,000 African startups.

The initiatives will be run under its recently established Africa Transformation Office (ATO) and will also see the tech giant fast-track investment in Africa’s startup ecosystem over the next five years.

Microsoft’s recently launched global Founders Hub 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, 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 startups with access to markets, technical skills, and funding opportunities.

These partnerships will provide Africa startups with access to skilling programs, 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 startups to rapidly scale using investment funding, Microsoft says it is establishing industry alliances and partnerships with venture capital investors that will facilitate access to US$500 million in potential funding for African startups.

This funding will come from a network of venture capital investors, who 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.

Microsoft says it 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 startup ecosystem are growing at an exciting pace,” said Wael Elkabbany, Managing Director, Microsoft Africa Transformation Office.

“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.”

Elkabbany points out, “However, 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.

Mozilla Common Voice launches US$400k grant

Meanwhile in Kenya, Mozilla Common Voice, an open-source initiative that aims to make voice technology more inclusive has announced US$400,000 in grants for voice technologies that leverage its open-source Kiswahili data set.

The initiative will support people and projects across East Africa who are using voice technology to unlock social and economic opportunities.

Awards of up to US$50,000 each will be given to winning projects in Kenya, Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Specifically, Common Voice is seeking projects focused on agriculture and finance, and that uplift groups who experience digital exclusion due to gender, income inequality, and location (for example, populations based in rural areas).

Winning projects can draw inspiration from existing voice technologies that build on Common Voice data, like Mbaza, a chatbot that provides timely and accurate information about the pandemic in the Kinyarwanda, French, and English languages.

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