Tech-enabled small businesses grow 4 times faster – Microsoft

2013-11-05 17:38

Technology giant Microsoft today unveiled an online portal targeted at small to medium enterprises (SMEs).

Group chief operating officer Kevin Turner said this was in an effort to drive innovation and economic growth on the continent as part of its 4Afrika initiative announced earlier this year.

As part of the initiative, Microsoft aims to bring 1 million African SMEs online in three years’ time.

“Our objective is to help more SMEs transition to, and benefit from, modern IT [information technology] so they can improve their overall competitiveness,” said Turner.

There has been a move by technology companies to make the internet more accessible to small businesses: Google launched a similar offering last year.

“Across the world, many SMEs, and their customers, don’t have access to modern broadband networks, and many lack the skills to get the most out of IT. Many SMEs are also still using large amounts of old and less efficient hardware and software,” he said.

“Small businesses that adopt new technologies grow at a rate four times higher than low-tech companies and small businesses that adopt cloud services grow revenue 14 points higher than low-tech companies,” added Turner.

The online hub will provide SMEs the opportunity to get their businesses online for free for the first year. This includes a free domain, a free website, as well as free email and collaboration tools.

Turner said the 4Afrika initiative was Microsoft’s second-largest investment in a region, and Africa was an important market for the company and its future.

“Our commitments under the 4Afrika banner are focused on actively engaging in Africa’s economic development, and for SMEs, this means providing training on how to apply technology to their business and helping them understand how they can benefit from a broad range of available devices and services.”

Microsoft South Africa managing director Mteto Nyati said the best way of addressing unemployment in South Africa, and Africa, was by creating small businesses.

“If we can help small companies to succeed in the first three to five years of their lives, we will help grow job creation and economic development significantly,” said Nyati.

“By doing this, we’re supporting government’s national priorities of creating jobs, growing skills and giving people meaningful work, while investing in local communities to help remove some of the systematic barriers that hold SMEs back.”

Also part of their initiative announced earlier this year was a partnership with Chinese manufacturer Huawei to develop a low-cost smartphone that would come preloaded with Windows 8 applications designed specifically for Africa through skills-development programmes.

The countries targeted for the smartphone devices include South Africa, Angola, Egypt, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Morocco and Nigeria.

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