BusinessDay

Microsoft expands partnership with AfDB to provide financial support for young entrepreneurs, SMEs

In its bid to support young entrepreneurs, Microsoft has expanded its partnership with the African Development Bank (AfDB).

The new Africa-wide initiative is aimed to scale up technical and financial support for youth entrepreneurship

A statement by Microsoft in Lagos recently explains that the expansion of the partnership will provide the support for the young entrepreneurs under AfDB’s Youth Entrepreneurship Investment Banks (YEIB) Initiative.

“Through its African Transformation Office (ATO), Microsoft will work with the bank to develop youth entrepreneurship ecosystems, creating jobs and dramatically scaling impact in Africa through digital inclusion,” the statement explained.

Microsoft motes that Africa’s young population is expected to double in size by 2050, reaching 830 million.

It worries that, though 10 to 12 million youth join the continent’s workforce every year, just over 3 million jobs are created, meaning that large numbers of people remain unemployed.

It believes that youth entrepreneurship will go a long way to solving the employment challenge, pointing out however that lack of investment, affordable access to finance and quality business development services still present significant hurdles.

“We believe much can be done to help foster youth entrepreneurship by collaborating with the African Development Bank, driving greater economic inclusion for this key segment of the population, and ultimately building a more prosperous society,” Wael Elkabbany, Microsoft’s Africa Regional Cluster General Manager , said recently.

Elkabbany added, “Already, we’ve seen considerable success partnering together on initiatives such as Coding for Employment, which aims to equip millions of African youth with employable skills, ultimately creating broadscale employment.”

AfDB’s Vice President for Private Sector, Infrastructure and Industrialization, Solomon Quaynor, explained too that the strengthening of their partnership with Microsoft on the YEIB was an important development in their journey towards harnessing Africa’s demographic dividend and facilitating the creation of millions of jobs for young Africans by 2025.

He added that the initiative placed much-needed focus on youth entrepreneurship, which was key to achieving their ambitious employment targets.

“The partnership seeks to support the establishment of national-level institutions through a public-private collaboration model to scale up technical and financial support for youth entrepreneurs and build their capacity,” Quaynor noted.

The YEIB, he noted further, was a unique value proposition set up by the African Development Bank that anchors and integrates efforts to develop entrepreneurship ecosystems in Africa.

He hoped that, through the initiative, the bank would bring together all relevant financial and non-financial parties and partners to play their respective roles in supporting youth entrepreneurs through mentorship, coaching, knowledge and experience sharing, and more.

“Collaborating with both private sectors and partners, the YEIB would establish a funding scheme, credit guarantee scheme, and technical assistance programs to strengthen providers of services to entrepreneurs.

Read also: AfDB approves $20m concessional investment for COVID-19

“In terms of policy support, it will advocate to governments for the business enabling environment reforms needed to catalyse youth entrepreneurship,” he said.

Elkabanny disclosed that Microsoft would also leverage its partner ecosystem, which covers 54 countries across the continent, to action on key technology solutions across four key areas. These include skilling, connectivity, small-to-medium enterprise (SME) digitisation and hardware.

He explained that to connect youth to economic opportunity and employability skills, the partnership would provide them with career pathway and learning content.

“This includes the use of existing e-learning platforms such as Coding for Employment. The initiative also aims to build the capacity of Enterprise Services Organizations, benefitting youth through the training of trainers,” he said.

He explained further that by leveraging successful connectivity solutions such as Microsoft Airband, the partnership would develop effective infrastructure models to help bridge the digital divide.

At the same time, he said, it would support other innovative solutions on the market either through direct or indirect investment.

Besides skilling and connectivity, he said, the

partnership also aims to improve SME digital literacy and business skills by creating access to curated learning content, certifications, business solutions, business skills and specialised digital skills.

This, he said, would be driven in partnership with LinkedIn and through skilling programs such as MS Learn and the Cloud Academy. “Access to finance for digitally enabled SMEs will also be facilitated through Microsoft partnerships,” he said.

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