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Microsoft addressing Africa’s connectivity issues to boost SMEs growth



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Microsoft is working to address Africa’s connectivity issues through the Airband Initiative, which provides investment into infrastructure that drives connectivity, and by extension help to boost growth of Small and Medium Enterprises.

The initiative partners with African startups that are overcoming barriers to affordable internet access in unconnected communities by using TV white space (TVWS) and other innovative last-mile access technologies.

Recently, Microsoft announced that it is expanding the Airband Initiative through new partnerships with local and global providers to bring internet access to 100 million Africans by the end of 2025, and working with partner Viasat, Microsoft is extending satellite connectivity to 5 million Africans.

In an article by Gerald Maithy, Startups Lead, Microsoft Africa Transformation Office, the vast majority of SME owners and entrepreneurs in Africa rely on smartphones to run their businesses.

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According to him, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are a crucial part of contributing to Africa’s inclusive socio-economic growth, noting that SMEs account for about 80% of jobs in Africa.

“In Nigeria, SMEs account for 96% of businesses, and 84% of employment in the country, and contribute 48% of the country’s GDP, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers report. Of these SME’s, 55% are in wholesale or retail business.

He said being able to access devices such as laptops with preloaded software could help business owners to manage their business processes and reap the rewards of access to best-in-class Software as a Solution (SaaS) products more easily.

“As a company, Microsoft has recognised that different SMEs have entirely different solution requirements. Microsoft differentiates itself by working with Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) and startups who build software solutions that can be used with Microsoft technologies.

“This allows businesses of all sizes to access these solutions from the marketplace, with the benefit that when curating a business bundle, an SME can look at their specific needs and match to the software that’s in the Microsoft Marketplace.

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He revealed that SME owners often have little access to business skills development opportunities.

“Through platforms such as the Africa Transformation Office’s SME Skilling package, Microsoft Learn, the Cloud Academy and LinkedIn Learning, SME owners can increase their business understanding to help their day-to-day business operations, build their business literacy and develop the technical understanding necessary to support their digitisation journey.

“Digitisation can significantly enhance financial inclusion, most particularly for unserved and underserved enterprises such as SMEs. Creating an enabling environment for these important economically active businesses that helps them thrive and participate actively in the continent’s economies is essential for sustainable and inclusive economic growth.

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