Tech Hubs in Africa, is Microsoft’s way to tap into Africa’s ICT-savvy youth in developing engineering solutions for the company and its affiliates.
Nigeria and Kenya being the first two in the tech hubs program, serves as test grounds for a project which hopes to help improve on IT in Africa
Kenya is hoping for new jobs and business opportunities when a plan by Microsoft Corporation to set up a technology development center in Kenya comes to fruition.
The US corporation’s vice president for gaming Phil Spencer said during a meeting with President Uhuru Kenyatta at State House, Nairobi that the center would serve the eastern Africa region, the presidential media unit reported.
The technology center would be the seventh globally for Microsoft and would be the lead hub of engineering for the company and its affiliates.
“The African Development Centres will contribute to Microsoft’s interests across global businesses such as Office, Azure and Windows among others,” said Mr Spencer. He did not give a date for the establishment of the center or the investment required.
The announcement comes as technology players across the world seek to leverage on tech-savvy Kenyan youth in various ICT disciplines.
Mr Spencer said the corporations would absorb 100 engineers in vacancies that were announced in March, describing as exciting the changes in the Africa technology landscape.
The center will leverage on the diversity of the regional landscape to build world class talent capable of creating innovative solutions for global impact.
It would also act as an engineering springboard for new technology investments in Kenya.
Microsoft has earmarked Nigeria as the other beneficiary of a similar facility on the continent to serve West Africa
President Kenyatta said the technology development sites carried great potential for job creation, talent development and technology transfer among Africa’s youth especially in countries with good ICT literacy ratings.
The president challenged Microsoft to ensure intellectual property rights of Kenyans involved in their projects are adequately protected.
“Ensure we do not lose the intellectual property rights that belong to our young people. We need an open and transparent partnership,” President Kenyatta said.
He also asked the company to democratize innovation in the digital space by expanding the range of African languages available and usable on the internet.
A united African continent working towards common goals would be a major force on the global economic stage.
To this end, nations in the region have been working towards an ambitious plan to create the world’s largest trade area. The Gambia recently became the latest country to ratify the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), helping the agreement reach critical mass to move forward.
The patchwork problem
One key to unlocking the region’s economic potential is making it easier for Africa’s 55 countries to trade with one another.
Currently, Africa is a patchwork of regulations and tariffs, and trade between countries has suffered as a result. For example, only 10% of Nigeria’s annual trade activity is with other African countries. This is a surprising given the country’s dominant economic standing and location firmly in the center of the continent.
As a whole, Africa’s intra-continental trade level hovers at just around 20%, while nations in Europe and Asia are at 69% and 59%, respectively. Clearly, there is a lot of room for growth.
What is AfCFTA?
AfCFTA is the biggest free trade agreement since the establishment of the World Trade Organization.
The objective of the agreement is to create a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business people and investments.
Last year, 44 African leaders signed an agreement to ratify AfCFTA, with half that number needed to move the agreement forward. Earlier this week, The Gambia was the 22nd country to announce that its government has ratified the agreement, meeting the threshold to officially put the wheels in motion.
We have witnessed a historic moment for the African Continent. AfCFTA is now set to become operational within the month, creating a single continental market for goods and services.
Mark-Anthony Johnson, CEO, JIC Holdings
The good news for the agreement is that many of Africa’s largest economies – including Egypt and South Africa – are already on board. There is, however, one significant holdout.
The elephant in the room
Even though the threshold for pushing AfCFTA forward has been reached, Nigeria’s lack of commitment is still a major blow to the strength and credibility of the agreement.
Nigeria’s situation is complicated. The country’s economic prospects are bright, and Lagos is on a trajectory to become the world’s largest city over the next few decades. On the other hand, there is fierce opposition from labor unions, and the country is home to largest concentration of people living in extreme poverty in the world.
[AfCFTA is] an extremely dangerous and radioactive neo-liberal policy initiative.
Ayuba Wabba, President of NLC, Nigeria’s largest labor union
While the majority of African nations appear to be on board with the plan to enact AfCFTA, it remains to be seen whether Nigeria comes along for the ride or decides to go it alone.