Microsoft Gets Behind African Startups as Demo Africa Gains Momentum

Microsoft is keeping a close eye on the innovation and tech-generated startups coming out of Africa lately and the IT giant is hinting at some major opportunities for the company and the emerging entrepreneurs.

Demo Africa aims to connect African startups to the global ecosystem by giving them a substantial platform with financial backing to launch and grow their businesses.

Apparently, Microsoft is on board with the plan and is ready to create serious opportunities for the young software innovators in Africa.

“For African investment it is an event that touches one of the core pillars of our drive around inspiring local economic development in the continent,” said Kabelo Makwane, the managing director of Microsoft SA, according to CNBC Africa.

Demo Africa is an affair that is sweeping the entire continent, but Makwane stressed the importance of seeing so much local participation in Nigeria.

“It is really encouraging because the same could not be said for the past where the momentum was a bit slow,” he said. “We have seen significant growth through public and private sector participation and also international donors and funders that have really risen to the occasion in helping to support these businesses to set up.”

He went on to say that Microsoft is always looking for opportunities in invest in something that will “contribute to real local economic development.”

Needless to say, the startups being launched through Demo Africa are exactly what they’re looking for.

“The first major reason is a very firm statement that Microsoft globally is very serious about Africa and is also very serious about Nigeria in terms of what this country represents in the broader context of the continent,” Makwane added.

Nigeria holds one of the continent’s largest markets, and, to Microsoft, that screams of opportunity.

“There is a nice catchphrase that says ‘Glocal,’ ” Makwane said. “We want to be more Glocal now as opposed to where we were in the past. So this means coming up with solutions and initiatives that are most relevant in a real way that can make a meaningful impact to the Nigerian context.”


Nigerian Government Invests N1.5 Billion in African Tech Startups

Nigeria’s minister of communication technology, Omobola Johnson, revealed Thursday that the federal government will be investing N1.5 billion on software development and African startups.

The staggering amount is equivalent to roughly U.S.$9 million and will give Nigerian startups the backing they need to grow their businesses and fuel economic growth in the country.

According to Johnson’s address at the third edition of Demo Africa, the government will be conducting the first case of the Information and Technology Innovation Fund in a few days.

This means the first large investment into the African technology startups could be just a few short weeks away.

Johnson said that in the next few days, 40 startups will have the opportunity to pitch their ideas and solutions in order to secure the funding they need to move forward with their businesses.

“I understand that in the two years of Demo Africa, alumni has generated over $8 million worth of investments, businesses and partnership,” Johnson said according to Sun News Online. “This is how you create jobs, new business opportunities, expand economics, improve social well-being of citizens.”

She also said that it’s key that those types of results “speak directly” to the country’s “ ‘companies and not code’ philosophy in the Ministry of Community Technology.”

Johnson believes that fueling new Internet opportunities can create vast economic expansion and create wealth and jobs for many of the country’s citizens.

“It is good to show prowess in software development, but it is even better to develop business and companies that are powered by that software,” she said. “The recent IPOs of Twitter and Ali Baba are testimonies of what is possible. I can’t imagine that it is too often that you get this level of government participation in Demos around the world…But governments, indeed, African governments, have an important role to play in catalyzing the startup industry as evidenced in the U.S. and, of course, Israel.”

If the startups are successful and other African governments follow in these footsteps, the growth of the entire continent’s gross domestic product could be exponential.

“One report highlights this potential and predicts that the Internet can contribute up to $300 billion to Africa’s GDP by 2025 and this is from an estimated $18 billion in 2013,” Johnson added. “While mobile subscriptions in sub-Sahara Africa are forecasted to exceed 635 million by the end of this year and predicted to rise around 930 million by the end of 2019.”

Johnson said Africa is in the “cusp of a mobile Internet revolution” and that itself has the potential to permanently change the playing field for all African startups.

Predictions have already surfaced suggesting that Africa’s mobile Internet use could increase 30-fold in the next five years – roughly double the estimated growth rate for other countries across the globe.