Microsoft to help Africa stay on track to digital transformation

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Chris Capossela,Chief Marketing Officer, Microsoft. Photo by Arthur Kuwashima.

Microsoft has been in Kenya for 25 years, recently the Chief Marketing Officer, Chris Capossela, came into the country where he told CIO East Africa, during an interview, ahead of the launch of their first Africa Development Centre (ADC) on the continent, that the company has been proud through the years to be in Kenya and to contribute to the country’s economy and to help their own customers understand how they could use technology.

“I think the biggest change has been the cloud and the invention of the ability for our customers to completely change their businesses to be more digitally oriented. So, one of the things we can bring to Kenya is a deep understanding of how we as Microsoft have changed our entire company to be cloud centric; and there is a lot of hard lessons we’ve learned by doing that and we are hoping that we can bring that to businesses inside of Kenya that are facing the same challenges that we have,” said Capossela.

Speaking on how Microsoft has been able to help the rest of Africa, Capossela said, “we have a big initiative, that we call the 4 Afrika initiative. The initiative has a few different pillars of focus and one of them is around skills; which is one of the many hard challenges facing many countries all over the world. With this 4 Afrika initiative, which we started six years ago, one of the big areas that has been important for us is skilling young people,”

Mr. Capossela further took the time to give us insights on what Microsoft is doing to help both countries and companies in the African continent as the world heads towards the 4th industrial revolution. The following interview with Capossela has been edited for brevity and clarity.

CIO: What is Microsoft actively doing to help the African continent keep up with the rest of the world when it comes to digital transformation?

Capossela: One way we are doing this is by providing technology, making sure that all our services are available to everyone on the African continent. The other thing we do is to get actively involved in helping African governments think through legislation.

We can’t just sit back and provide technology anymore, because the cloud is so new; that governments all around the world are trying to figure out how to change their laws or create new laws to enable the cloud economy to flourish, and we have a lot of experience doing this in countries all around the world.

We have some of the most active people inside the company that can help shape public policy and can help shape the laws that countries can put in place so the cloud economy can thrive. That is true in the United States and the United Kingdom and it can also be true in Africa.

That is something not a lot of companies do, but I think we understand that we have a responsibility to help governments do that.

CIO: In line with the 4th industrial revolution how can private sector companies such as Microsoft help to increase the reach of SMEs who are promoting digital transformation?

Capossela: Microsoft is a platform company; which means that we provide a technology platform that enables other companies to become successful on that platform. So, I think the most important thing we can do is highlight customers who have done an amazing job reinventing their business or that have built a business from nothing and show the way that can be done.

Case studies are very important; customers like to hear from Microsoft, but they really like to hear from other customers who have already worked with us. So, a lot of what we do in addition of building a platform we bring customers together to learn from each other.

CIO: what role is Microsoft playing to ensure that the people in Africa feel the benefits of technology?

Capossela: We are making sure that our platform is as accessible as possible, by doing things such as ensuring our pricing is affordable so our products can be used by as many people as possible. For example: we have a very popular developer tool called ‘developer studio’ that is free and is used by millions of developers around the world.

Another important thing we do is by using our company to invest in other countries with initiatives such as 4Africa. With 4Africa we started investing in start-ups, partners, small-to-medium enterprises, governments and youth on the African continent.

Our focus has been on delivering affordable access to the internet, developing skilled workforces and investing in local technology solutions. Africa has the potential to lead the technology revolution – and so we’re empowering those with the right ideas to drive economic development, inclusive growth and digital transformation.

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