Microsoft has announced five African startups that will receive grants as part of the Microsoft 4Afrika program, an extension of the Microsoft Ventures program. You will quickly notice that the selected startups are from East and West Africa, specifically Kenya, Nigeria and Uganda, – non-from Southern Africa.
The press release does not go into much detail into the amounts to be invested in these startup but the fund as a whole is said to be worth $75 million covering a wide range of programs. Shortlisted startups were selected based on the “uniqueness and scalability of their solutions, their business models and the relevance of the key problems they are addressing”.
By nature, the program is designed to not only help African startups, but to also put Microsoft platforms at the center of the development mix. This may also be a move to re-assert or at least regain some of Microsoft’s foothold on the continent outside their office solutions (lost to Google and Apple) and the beneficiaries of the grant are Microsoft developers. The press release reads
This group of Microsoft technology enthusiasts focuses on using Microsoft tools and technologies to solve business problems. The 4Afrika Initiative aims to help startups break through barriers and reach new heights with the help of Microsoft’s data platform solutions, unified communications, optimized desktops and enterprise project management.
“As part of the 4Afrika initiative, we are excited to be supporting startups that have developed innovative solutions that address key issues in Africa,” said Amrote Abdella, director of startup engagement and Partnerships for 4Afrika. “Our support is aimed to showcase the importance of local innovation, but, more important, it highlights the great potential that African innovators have in competing with world-class developers and entrepreneurs.”
These startups will receive funding:
- access.mobile LLC (Uganda) A solution with a key focus in the agriculture and healthcare industries, giving enterprises the ability to collect, analyze and share clear, real-time information about their operations and supply chain activity.
- Africa 118 (Kenya) A mobile directory services solution that helps bridge the information gap both for enterprises and consumers.
- Gamsole (Nigeria) A mobile game production company creating Windows games, with downloads topping more than 4 million.
- Kytabu (Kenya) A textbook leasing application for low-cost tablets. Students can save more than 60 percent of their education cost by renting their textbooks on an hourly, weekly, monthly, school term or annual plan.
- Save & Buy (Nigeria) A Web and mobile platform that enables Nigerians to save toward the purchase of items conveniently and securely through e-commerce channels.
The great thing about this development is that it’s not to be seen as a non-profit or philanthropic initiative. Although, the money will come in as grants with no transfer of equity, Microsoft intends to benefit from the Afrocentric solutions that will run on it’s platforms. In fact, one global commentator says the program will likely make more money for Microsoft as more startups are come on board and begin to scale.