VENTURES AFRICA- World’s largest software maker, Microsoft, is partnering Chinese tech company, Huawei, to launch a new full-functionality Windows Phone specifically designed for Africa –Huawei 4Afrika.
Stylishly available in colours blue, red, black, and white; Huawei 4Afrika is designed and targeted as an affordable option for students, small businesses, developers, and first-time Smartphone owners to enable them connect, collaborate, and access markets and opportunities online.
The new device which will be made available in Angola, Egypt, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, and South Africa this month carries a price tag of $150.
Huawei 4Afrika, a 10 millimeter-thin case phone, is endowed with a variant of the Ascend W1, a 4-inch 480 x 800 display, dual-core 1.2 GHz Snapdragon processor, front and rear-facing cameras, a 4GB of internal storage and can deliver up to 420 hours (about 3 weeks) of standby time due to its built-in power-saving technology.
It also comes preloaded with custom apps created by African developers for African consumers and features a market-specific store within the larger Windows Phone Store for downloading locally-relevant apps and content.
The introduction of the Huawei 4Afrika Smartphone is part of Microsofts’ 4Afrika Initiative, a new effort that kicked off on Monday, through which the company will actively engage in Africa’s economic development to improve its global competitiveness.
By 2016, the 4Afrika Initiative plans to help place tens of millions of smart devices in the hands of African youth, bring 1 million African small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) online, upskill 100,000 members of Africa’s existing workforce, and help an additional 100,000 recent graduates develop employability skills, 75 percent of whom Microsoft will help place in jobs.
“The world has recognized the promise of Africa, and Microsoft wants to invest in that promise. We want to empower African youth, entrepreneurs, developers, and business and civic leaders to turn great ideas into a reality that can help their community, their country, the continent and beyond,” Fernando de Sousa, general manager, 4Afrika Initiative said.
“The 4Afrika Initiative is built on the dual beliefs that technology can accelerate growth for Africa, and Africa can also accelerate technology for the world.”
The company will invest $74 million over the next three years in the ‘4Afrika’ initiative, which will bring 1m small and medium enterprises online, develop local skills, and deepen Microsoft’s share of Africa’s growing smartphone market, de Sousa said.
As part of the 4Afrika initiative, Microsoft will also be partnering with Nokia to provide free in-store training for customers in Kenya and Nigeria to help accelerate adoption of Nokia Lumia 510 and 620 phones and manage their new data plans. The partnership will help Nokia lift its new line of phone as both bodies plan to launch two new Windows phones for the African market in the next two months.
Fernando de Sousa, confirmed this saying, the phones will be launched in the next two months.
Quoting the World Bank’s statistics that roughly a quarter of the one billion people on the continent are middle-class wage earners; de Sousa, said “We (Microsoft) are being very clear that we are not going to be building something cheap for this market. What we want to do is deliver real quality innovation at an affordable price. Compared to some Smartphones that cost $600 here, this is very affordable.”
Speaking on the new phone apps, the Microsoft Africa boss said “We are pre-loading the phone with market-related applications which we have built in Africa. In east Africa we have focused on creating mobile payment systems, where as in West Africa we have focused more on entertainment apps, because that is what Nigeria has more of a calling for.”
Africa is one of the most rapidly-growing technology markets in the world and Microsoft is targeting the continent as a result of its booming tech market. The software giant recently gained impetus with its partnership with Nokia on Lumia phones sale on the continent, recording a whopping 4.4 million Lumia Windows Smartphones sales in the fourth quarter of last year, up from 2.9 million the previous quarter.
According to president of Microsoft International, Jean-Philippe Courtois, “We believe there has never been a better time to invest in Africa and that access to technology—particularly cloud services and smart devices—can and will serve as a great accelerator for African competitiveness.”
The American multinational is competing with the likes of Blackberry and Samsung – which has in recent times introduced less expensive Galaxy tabs phones into the African Smartphone market.
Reading-England based research firm, Canalys expects that come 2016, Windows phone may overtake BlackBerry to become the No. 3 operating system, with a 15 percent share, compared with 5 percent for BlackBerry.