By: Admire Moyo, ITWeb’s News Editor
US-based software giant Microsoft is looking to scale up to 10 000 African start-ups in the next five years.
This was revealed by Kunle Awosika, managing director of Microsoft’s Africa Transformation Office, in a media briefing yesterday.
The virtual media briefing followed Microsoft, through its Africa Transformation Office, this week hosting a meet-up for start-up founders and entrepreneurs, which focused on the essential role of the founder within the start-up ecosystem.
The event, hosted in Cape Town, examined the vital role corporate organisations, venture capital investors, tech accelerators and incubators can play in accelerating start-up innovation and growth across the continent.
According to Awosika, Microsoft is currently already supporting already over 1 000 start-ups through its transformation office, and the immediate goal is to sign up 3 000 businesses.
To enable African start-ups to rapidly scale using investment funding, Microsoft has established industry alliances and partnerships with venture capital investors that facilitate access to $500 million (R8.7 billion) in potential funding.
US-based tech giant Google last year also committed R15 billion over a period of five years to support digital transformation in Africa. The investment includes low-interest loans to help small businesses and equity investments in African start-ups.
Launched in 2021, Microsoft’s Africa Transformation Office is focused on enabling growth and fuelling investment in four essential development areas: digital infrastructure, skilling, small and medium enterprises, and start-ups.
According to Microsoft, understanding that these ambitious goals cannot be achieved alone, strategic partnerships with governments, international organisations, multinationals and African enterprises will accelerate investments in Africa and increase the continent’s export of digital services.
Since its inception, the Africa Transformation Office has spearheaded initiatives and strategic partnerships across Africa to build digital infrastructure, enable SMEs with digital capabilities, support innovative start-ups and skill the current and future workforce.
“South Africa iswell-established as one of the top four start-up ecosystems on the continentand is leading the way for successful exits with more than one-third of the acquisitionsacross the African tech space since 2015,” said Lionel Moyal, commercialpartner director at Microsoft South Africa.
“Microsoft is committed to nurturing and supporting our proudly South African start-ups through engagements such as today’s meet-up.”
Founders attending the event had the chance to network with fellow entrepreneurs and hear from start-up success stories, including Q-Hop and BancX.
Q-Hop offers a contactless, cashless check-out solution to retailers, using a mobile app. The company provides customers with hyper-personalised promotional offers, and retailers with real-time data insights.
Microsoft worked with the team to provide technical support, including a review of the Q-Hop solution architecture and the development of AI algorithms.
BancX says it is a fintech platform that helps companies and banks on the “embedded finance and banking-as-a-service journey, redefining digital banking and financial services and enabling customers to win in the digital-first economy”.
In a statement, Microsoft says Azure is a key component in BancX’s vision to change the financial services landscape in Africa and beyond. Microsoft’s ongoing commitment to BancX, through its various initiatives, provides further fuel for the start-up’s growth, it adds.
“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 and innovation that will contribute positively, not just to Africa’s digital economy, but to global society,” says Awosika.
Microsoft has created partnerships with accelerators and incubators across Africa − including Grindstone, Greenhouse, FlapMax and Seedstars − to provide industry-based start-ups with access to markets, technical skills and funding opportunities.
It notes the Africa Transformation Office has also designed and sponsored business and technical acceleration programmes for start-ups, in partnership with three accelerators in South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria.
The Africa Transformation Office has engaged with more than 1 500 African start-ups through a series of online and physical engagements, and hosted 10 start-ups at GITEX in Dubai recently, including Q-Hop and BancX.
During the event, they had meetings with potential investors and customers, as well as engagements with the Microsoft leadership team to develop their joint customer pipeline.
Microsoft adds it 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 in the next five years to increase funding and enable them to scale up and drive economic growth.
The firm has supported a growth partnership with South African partner Technvst to provide 30 African start-ups with access to customers and market expansion opportunities. Other South African based start-ups − including Finclusion, The Awareness Company, Anisoptera, Omnisient and WalletDoc − have engaged with Microsoft on additional growth and market opportunities.
Microsoft’s Founders Hub was launched in Africa in 2021 under the Africa Transformation Office. The self-service hub provides access to a range of resources, from tools like Microsoft Azure, GitHub and Microsoft 365, to go-to-market and business support.
Microsoft points out this includes opportunities for start-ups to sell to its corporate and enterprise customers. It also supports start-ups in geo-expansion activities, where start-ups 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 our South African growth-stage start-ups with their business development and market expansion plans,” says Moyal.
Microsoft is currently supporting more than 1 000 African start-ups on the Founders Hub, through Azure credit, dev tools, access to mentors and technical support, including nearly 150 South African start-ups.
“Our goal is to enable start-ups to rapidly scale using investment funding, and by providing access to skilling programmes, access to markets and access to technology, with support from our engineering and product teams for co-innovation opportunities. We believe start-ups can contribute significantly to developing Africa’s digital economy and contribute to the wider economic growth of Africa,” says Awosika.
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