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 startup ecosystem over the next five years.
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.
The firm said the partnerships would provide African startups with access to skilling programmes, markets, and 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 scale using investment funding rapidly, Microsoft is establishing industry alliances and partnerships with venture capital investors to facilitate access to $500 million in potential funding for African startups.
The fund will come from a network of venture capital investors, who will dedicate a portion of their financial support to startups in the Microsoft network.
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.
Managing Director, Microsoft Africa Transformation Office, Wael Elkabbany, said: “Investments into Africa’s startup 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.”
However, Elkabbany pointed out that the African startup market currently represents less than one per cent of total investments worldwide. This needs to change.
He revealed that Microsoft’s endeavour to scale its impact dramatically would be driven by an overarching strategy with three key focus areas.
Startups Lead, Microsoft Africa Transformation Office, Gerald Maithya, said the founder’s hub includes opportunities for startups to sell to Microsoft’s corporate and enterprise customers. Microsoft will also support startups in geo-expansion activities, where startups 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 startups with their business development and market expansion plans.
“We understand that each startup 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 startups, 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,” said Maithya.
Microsoft is establishing partnerships with venture capital investors, primarily those with global reach and regional bases, 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 startups, thereby increasing the funding available to eligible startups,” Maithya added.