Microsoft an SMB Matchmaker in Africa

Microsoft will use its first-world connections to help entrepreneurs in developing economies connect to the digital world.

OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso—The United Nations Industrial Development Organization and Microsoft have announced a partnership to set up PC refurbishment centers in Africa.

These centers are designed to help address the hardware, software and training needs of entrepreneurs with small and midsize businesses, with the ultimate goal of producing a refurbishment model that can be used as a best practice across Africa.

The project is a joint initiative to help bridge the gap between large corporations disposing of their used computers and entrepreneurs in Africa who can use these PCs to help grow their operations.

It will be piloted in Uganda, with the goal of creating local jobs, increasing information and communication technology skills development and improving the availability of technology for entrepreneurs.

"The SMB space is vitally important to economic growth, and this announcement is about creating the biggest engine for refurbishing PCs in Africa in a green way. We are trying to create a framework for clean computing and a methodology for their disposal," Orlando Ayala, the senior vice president of Microsofts Emerging Segments Marketing Division, told eWEEK in an interview here.

Microsoft is hoping to correct a significant imbalance represented by the fact that, while the sourcing of these PCs remains a challenge here, the United States retires some 70 million computers a year. Ayala said that Microsoft sees a great opportunity to organize the industry through the right partnerships to fuel this model and also help create employment in the region, he said.

/zimages/4/28571.gifTo read more about Microsofts Unlimited Potential initiative, click here.

"The price of a refurbished computer loaded with its software and with a lifecycle of five years will drop significantly over time, compared with the current price of around $90," Ayala said.

Microsoft hopes that, by 2015, another billion people will have access to computers across the globe—which was a core component of its Unlimited Potential vision.

By 2010, there will be about 1 billion decommissioned computers, and there is no reason that some of those should not be made available to allow small businesses across the African continent to thrive, he said.

Speaking at the first African sub-regional Forum on ICT Best Practices here today, Dr. Kandeh Yumkella, the director-general of UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organization), said at the first African sub-regional Forum on ICT Best Practices here June 7, that SMB enterprises are the cornerstone of any economy.

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"This partnership creates opportunity to create IT skills in Africa, where IT penetration in homes, businesses and hospitals are the lowest in the world. That has to change. Computers are not a luxury for Africa, but rather a necessity if it is to become more competitive and breach the global divide," he said.

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