COMESA and Microsoft collaborate to promote access & skills

LUSAKA, ZAMBIA - 4 November 2017

Today at the Connected East Africa Summit, Microsoft 4Afrika launched an online hub for Kenyan small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to access locally relevant information and resources to promote SMEs and improve trade. Biz4Afrika is an Africa-wide network of SMEs designed to enable a sustainable and connected community of entrepreneurs that will have a meaningful impact on job creation, global competitiveness and wealth creation in the long run.


New online portal will provide one-stop shop for information resources and business services for small and medium enterprises.


Started by the Kenyan ICT Authority in 2009, the former Kenya ICT Summit is being expanded to East Africa for the first time with the theme, ‘the strength is in our networks’. The goal is to promote the ideals of a shared ICT infrastructure and a talent pool of young innovators and entrepreneurs that will promote regional trade.


Delivering a keynote at the annual conference, Kunle Awosika, Country Manager of Microsoft Kenya- the title sponsor of the Summit, focused on the importance of the SME sector to boost intra-African trade. “East Africa has already been cited by Harvard University as having surpassed the tipping point from primarily exporting raw materials to creating and exporting value-added goods and services. The continued shift from a labour-based economy to a knowledge economy will require increased online presence, particularly by SMEs who contribute about 45% of Kenya’s GDP.”


The strategic partnership will promote access to technology to improve regional trade, develop public sector ICT skills and promote local innovation for better service delivery.


The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) through the COMESA Business Council (CBC) and Microsoft have taken a step toward strengthening their working alliance today by signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), which sets out how they will collaborate in the areas of access to technology, development of relevant skills and the fostering of innovation in COMESA’s 19 member States. This is in line with the Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative’s three core focus areas (World-class skills, Access and Innovation).


The MoU will promote access to technology to COMESA Member States based on a Trusted Cloud Infrastructure that focuses on the secure deployment of modern IT operations. It is also expected this collaboration will accelerate and promote the adoption of innovative high-speed low-cost connectivity initiatives, including through new policy approaches to spectrum management such as dynamic spectrum access. It will also encourage the use of cloud technologies through the adoption of important enabling policies in the areas of cyber-security, data privacy and data protection.


Mr. Sindiso Ngwenya, COMESA’s Secretary General during the signing, said: “Business technology has revolutionized the way countries and firms conduct business. We are in an age where the planning processes of organisations is through instruments and solutions that promote quality management, and respond to age –old constraints of time limitations and high costs of operations.”


“Through Microsoft’s 4Afrika Initiative, we have been working to increase regional trade and the growth of the knowledge economy in Africa,” says Antony Cook, Associate General Counsel, Legal and Corporate Affairs Microsoft, Middle East and Africa.


The collaboration is further expected to focus on fostering innovation across the COMESA region by promoting the value and protection of Intellectual Property. It will also encourage the development of eGovernment solutions that will facilitate, simplify and stimulate investment in and trade across the COMESA region to save on time and the cost of complying with business governance and regulations. This collaboration fits squarely with COMESA’s mandate and demonstrates the commitment to promote common interests for economic development in the region.


“Through this collaboration, we will bring policy makers and businesses together and empower them to take advantage of the cloud-first, mobile-first world. With the right policies and regulations in place, people will be encouraged to use cloud technology, develop their own IP and ultimately participate in trade and e-commerce across borders. With innovative eGovernment services, citizens and businesses will additionally benefit from safe online transactions, open borders, efficiency and increased foreign investment,” adds Cook.


The implementation of the MoU will be the responsibility of the COMESA Business Council, as the voice of the private sector in the region.