As part of Microsoft’s recent initiative, Microsoft 4Afrika, it is investing in a strategic cooperation with business incubator iHub and m:lab in East Africa to help star-ups build and grow their businesses using Microsoft technologies. The cooperation aims to increase access to software and improve technological innovation in Kenya and the surrounding area.
From a Mobile perspective, access to Microsoft Windows and Tablet devices will be enabled at the innovation centres And will be on offer to test and develop technologies built specifically for the African region.
This development clearly signals the strategic importance Africa places on Africa as it continues it’s efforts to help African start-ups, enhanced technological innovation in the region, and provide jobs and opportunities to recent graduates.
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China’s phenomenal growth over the past decade has been no more apprent than in its relationship wth Africa, in particular Kenya, Uganada, Tanazania, Rwanda and Burundi. Over the last few years, Kenya’s imports from China have rocketed to huge levels, but this has come at a price to the mobile hardware industry. Counterfet Mobile goods imported into Kenya from China are costing the economy millions and are stiffling growth in the sector. At worst, environmentalists also see a problem with the counterfeit goods in terms of higher levels of raiation emitted from counterfeit goods.
Clearly, a balance is needed in Kenya (currently a shining star in mobile technology in Africa) between the desire for mobile and internet access and the validity of the population being able to afford newer phones. Nobody should be denied access to the internet, and counterfeit phones are simply a stepping stone towards an internet-enabled population, which is good for everyone.
Although the situation varies across the continent. the general trend in Africa is that governments are becoming more stable and willing to partner with international firms to help grow the economy. In addition, Africa contains some of the world’s fastest growing economies, has a mobile-centric population growing at a rapid pace and is also a centre for mobile innovation. It’s not surprising therefore that some of the world’s largest and most successful technology companies are eyeing up its potential.
Technology giants such as Google, HP and Intel have all recently expanded their presence in Africa. Microsoft also launched its 4Afrika initiative last month — an initiative which should lead to the company spending an additional $75 million in the next three years over what it’s currently investing there.
More people access the internet via their Mobile device than they do via a Desktop or Laptop, which are considered far too expensive. The Microsoft initiative involves getting more people into Mobile, increasing access to SmartPhones, and helping small business get Online. Micrososft will also be launching a new Windows phone, with Apps specifically designed for the African market, called Huawei4Afrika.
However, there are still limitations. Africa lacks a certain level of infrastructure and it can still be very expensive to use the Internet. There is also a lack of skilled labour. To that extent, many of the tech companies investing in the continent are also investing in infrastructure such as increasing access to the internet, adding to the skilled labour force and setting up research and development centres.
Clearly there are challenges ahead, however with a youthful, ambitious population, Africa is potentially set to lead the way in innovation and growth in the Mobile sector.
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Nairobi recently hosted some of the continent’s top Mobile and Banking executives, in a counsel lead by IBM. The conundrum in many ways is how to sustain the continent’s growth, Africa currently contains several of the world’s fastest growing economies, without manufacturing which has traditionally fuelled the growth in other developing regions. Could Mobile help replace this?
Physical infrastructure in many other parts of the continent is in need of an upgrade, but the speed in which telephony networks have embraced mobile has taught the rest of the world of Africa’s potential.
In a way, Africa is well-positioned to take advantage of new Mobile technologies as it has skipped generations of bureaucracy associated with Mobile networks, and is not contained by red tape. However, Mobile technology is still very much dominated by feature phones and voice, and investors believe the next step in its development will be widespread internet data connections. Currently, data-driven phones only make up about 20% of the market so the major handset manufacturers see this areas as the next step for growth.
An excellent piece on Mobile technology and how it has potential to enhance the lives of farming communities throughout Kenya and the rest of Africa.
Kenya is at the forefront of Mobile technology in Africa and this piece from IT News Africa demonstrates how farmers and veterinarians are using Mobile technology to alert of possible outbreaks of animal diseases at scale and quickly – http://www.itnewsafrica.com/2013/03/cell-phones-revolutionizing-kenyas-livestock-sector/
Mobile applications are allowing for pinpoint accuracy when it comes to warnings over possible outbreak diseased down to the Mobile’s ever-present GPS signal. In Kenya, where 3 out of 4 people now have a Mobile phone and the majority of internet is accessed through a Mobile, an application called EpiCollect helps to track animal vaccination and treatment campaigns.
Mobile technology is ensuring that animal diseases can be detected early and isolated, potentially saving the lives of thousands animals and safeguarding the livelihoods of whole communities.
Fascinating feedback from the Mobile World Congress. VP of Orange ad services, Ludovic Levy, predicted that it will be markets like Africa that “close the loop” between mobile, payments and advertising before Europe because they are further ahead in terms of NFC infrastructure and mobile payments. In the race to close the loop between the Banks, Merchants and Consumers and the efforts to persuade consumers of the security and benefits, could Africa lead the way?