In a continued effort to increase its network to reach over seven million people across the Middle East and Africa by the end of the year, Microsoft is looking to create over 100,000 new job opportunities via partnerships with public, private and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
Microsoft’s target markets for what it refers to as future “employability platforms” to include Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, Botswana, Algeria and Ghana, and will eventually expand into 21 Middle Eastern and African countries.
According to Microsoft Middle East and Africa’s corporate vice president Ali Faramawy, employment opportunities for poor communities will have to be realized by helping to establish business-friendly climates and specialized training for higher-level students.
“Part of the unemployment problem is caused by a lack of economic opportunity as well as the fact that graduates from secondary and tertiary institutions lack the skills required by employers,” she said. “But there is no shortage of determination and even in a country like Iraq that has been faced with some dire situations, our platform has helped put 30,000 youths into jobs in the past 14 months.”
Microsoft has launched a number of initiatives aimed at providing grant funding, leadership mentoring and specialized training to a wide range of civilians, from motivated students at the secondary levels of education to already-established startups looking for financial backing.
One such initiative is known as EmployMentor, a Microsoft program that aims to provide female tech and business graduates with job opportunities and entrepreneurial guidance throughout Africa. Over the course of the weeklong training program, participants engage in mock interviews, business case studies and financial-modeling training aimed at providing them experience with real-world business scenarios.
Another initiative has provided innovation grants to seven African startup companies, a program that was announced at Microsoft’s 4Afrika Advisory Council meeting in Nairobi in November 2014. Through the program, seven startups received funding, technical support and mentorship to stimulate their growth.
According to Microsoft’s general manager of Africa Initiatives Fernando de Sousa, Microsoft’s business grants largely go to startups that focus on sustainable and wide-reaching solutions.
“We’re supporting startups that have developed their solutions beyond the idea stage. They are either in the process of acquiring their first batch of clients or well under way in expanding their existing portfolio of clients,” he said. “All startups have created solutions that are addressing key sectors fuelling growth across the continent.”
With its employment and entrepreneurial training initiatives in Africa, Microsoft is setting an example for American companies looking to help those in poor and developing countries while simultaneously creating opportunities for themselves to tap into new and emerging markets. When companies invest in the lives of those living in poor communities, they are helping to create business-friendly conditions in emerging markets, and are creating opportunities for both American companies and African students in ways that are more direct and involved than vaguely directed aid contributions.
– Zach VeShancey