IBM Expands Africa Push With $60M Investment

IBM is increasing its focus on Africa, pledging $60 million to enhance tech skills and support tech startups and entrepreneurs on the continent.

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IBM announced plans to invest $60 million over three years to develop the next generation of technical talent in Africa.

As part of the initiative, IBM is expanding its Africa Technical Academy and the company's Africa University Program to more than 20 African countries. In Kenya—home to IBM's Africa Research lab and Innovation Center—IBM is partnering with the Kenya Education Network (KENET) to deliver certification courses to faculty and students of 50 Kenyan universities over KENET's broadband network.

"With a research laboratory, innovation centers, offices and other advanced facilities in more than 24 African countries, IBM has the highest concentration of technical talent on the African continent," Dr. Naguib Attia, IBM's CTO and vice president of technical leadership for the Middle East and Africa (MEA), said in a statement. "As the leader in science and technology in Africa, we see it as IBM's responsibility to make a strategic investment in skills development helping to lay the foundations of the Africa of tomorrow."

The courses are available at no cost and are facilitated by both IBM online trainers and certified faculty from the participating universities.

"This IBM certification program will provide university graduates with critical entry-level job skills that are in high demand by employers in Kenya and Africa," said Professor Meoli Kashorda, executive director of the Kenya Education Network, in a statement. "Both the African universities and leading private sector companies that are investing on the continent stand to benefit from this program."

IBM said its Africa Technical Academy runs in parallel with the IBM Africa University Program, in which 80 universities across the continent participate. These universities provide their final year students with business analytics, cyber-security, data management, cloud and mobile technology training. Academic staff and students gain support from IBM's team of experts, cloud-based resources, and an IBM training and information portal.

Attia said IBM will be able to reach and offer certification to more than 1,000 faculty members and more than 35,000 students by 2017.

Launched last year, the IBM Africa Technical Academy has rolled out 16 sessions in nine countries and has trained 1,600 technical professionals so far, each in a specialist role with two primary technologies. IBM is adding additional specialist roles to the curriculum, stepping up training opportunities and extending the program to 12 countries by the end of 2015.

Meanwhile, at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit co-hosted by President Barack Obama in Kenya last weekend, IBM announced a new innovation and collaboration space at iHub—the heart of Nairobi's tech community.

The new IBM Innovation Space @ iHub will tap expertise from IBM's Innovation Center and Research Lab in Kenya. Big Blue designed it as a working environment for software developers and startups to foster entrepreneurial business growth and provide open access to IBM's experience.