Microsoft has announced new efforts to help 10,000 African companies grow faster. The projects will be overseen by the company’s newly formed Africa Transformation Office (ATO), which will also see the internet giant invest in Africa’s startup ecosystem at a faster pace over the next five years.
Through the ATO, Microsoft’s recently launched worldwide Founders Hub will now be available to African companies. The Founders Portal is a self-service hub that connects startups to mentors, skilling courses, Microsoft Azure and GitHub, as well as go-to-market and business help.
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 $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. 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 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,” says Gerald Maithya, Startups Lead, Microsoft Africa Transformation Office.
Partnerships with key startups
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. Therefore 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. .
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 startups, thereby increasing the funding made available to eligible startups,” continued Maithya.
Elkabbany concludes, “There is huge potential for Africa to become a thriving hub of digital innovation on the global start-up landscape. Our ambition is to see an explosion of local invention that will contribute positively, not just to Africa’s digital economy, but to global society.”