By Paul Ndiho
U.S. Technology giants are betting big on Africa. Microsoft, Facebook, and Uber are investing and opening development centers on the continent where they will train software engineers, build an ecosystem and tap into the burgeoning market for tech startups.
Microsoft is planning to invest $100 million to open an Africa technology development center with locations in Nigeria and Kenya over the next five years. This is Microsoft’s first development center on the African continent.
“The future of the world in terms of the labor workforce is here in Africa, and we started working about the infrastructure that is needed to un-taped that opportunity, and allow all the African countries to do the bridging in the details cap. So one of the things we created is; first we announced, like two months ago, a full data center in South Africa that creates infrastructure.”
Microsoft says it expects to hire more than 100 local engineers to work in the new Africa facilities in both countries to customize its applications for the African market and to develop new ones for the continent and beyond.
“From a dollar standpoint, we are talking about 100 million dollars investment, between infrastructure and people. But the most important part is not about that; it is the ripple effect we will create in the ecosystem, with the university, with the governments, and with the startups.”
Global tech giants, including Facebook and Uber are planning to take advantage of Africa’s young population interested in the technology sector.
Facebook founder and Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg is no stranger to investing in Africa. Speaking to young techies in 2016, at Yaba, a tech enclave in Nigeria’s sprawling commercial capital, Zuckerberg said that Facebook was looking to better support tech development and entrepreneurship across Africa.
“The service needs to load quickly, right? If people want to use the service, it’s going to take half a minute to load, so we have to make sure that works on all these different network conditions around the world. That’s a big part of our job too, and we take all this seriously,”
In 2018, Facebook launched its first Africa community hub for innovative startups in Lagos. The tech giant plans to train 50,000 young entrepreneurs and creative developers in digital technology.
“It’s really about an investment in Nigeria, an investment in the tech ecosystem, it’s also about supporting businesses, developers, creative, entrepreneurs, with training specifically curated training that will give them the digital skills they need to succeed.”
Uber uses a transport service app that allows users to order ride services. Uber is also betting big in Africa, operating in 15 major African cities and offering employment to more than 100,000 drivers.
Last year, the company struck a loan and discount deals with Japanese carmaker Suzuki for its Alto compact cars — and with the South African-based Stanbic Bank.
“We enable their business, give them an opportunity to access what the partnership can’t offer, and at the same time we take them on a journey to start learning how to run that business, how to grow it, and actually we believe we should be able to access the 6,000 drivers that Uber has on the platform,”
Uber’s ambition is to dominate Africa’s transportation sector. The company’s deal with Alto in Kenya, is expected to soon be extended to Uganda and Tanzania, offering 100 percent car financing for top-rated Uber drivers at a price just over eight-thousand dollars. The loans are to repay with the money the driver earns providing services.