IBM Increases Focus on Africa

IBM says it will double down on its investment in Africa, including sending twice as many up-and-coming IBM leaders to Africa via the company's Corporate Service Corps (CSC) program.

NEW YORK-Having earlier pledged to increase its focus on the continent of Africa, IBM announced that it will double the number of emerging leaders it sends on pro-bono assignments to Africa during the next three years.

At its THINK Forum here, known as THINK: A Forum on the Future of Leadership, IBM said as part of the company's Corporate Service Corps (CSC) program, aimed at developing IBM leaders and providing skilled assistance to local governments and non-government organizations in emerging markets, IBM will send about 600 employees to Africa through 2015. The THINK Forum is an IBM conference to mark the company's Centennial that convenes more than 700 emerging leaders from government, business, academia and science from around the globe, and examines how models of leadership in business, technology and society must evolve to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

In a meeting with the press on the news, Stanley Litow, IBM vice president of Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs and president of the IBM Foundation, said IBM has sent more than 1,200 IBMers through the CSC program and about 300 have gone to Africa. But IBM will double that to 600 over the next three to four years as the company reinforces its commitment to doing business in Africa, he said.

"The world is discovering Africa's potential, and IBM is uniquely poised to help the region meet its growing demands. IBM's Corporate Service Corps program helps lay the groundwork with communities by strengthening relationships with government officials and local partners, while providing IBM employees with a unique leadership development experience," said Bruno Di Leo, general manager of IBM's Growth Markets Unit, in a statement. "As IBM targets more growth and emerging markets, leadership programs such as the Corporate Service Corps are vital to help train our employees on growth market environments and development opportunities."

As part of IBM's Africa commitment, a team from IBM will work on a global health project, the Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon initiative, which is aimed at reducing cervical cancer deaths in Africa and Latin America, IBM said. The Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon initiative is a cause championed by the George W. Bush Institute and its partners - the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), Susan G. Komen for the Cure, and UNAIDS, IBM said. The IBM team will create a business plan for the technology that enables the participating organizations to achieve shared objectives such as treating and preventing cervical cancer and raising breast cancer awareness.

Litow said the increased CSC efforts in Africa will give IBM "an expanded understanding about the big geographies in Africa." Moreover, "This model is the leadership development model for the 21st century" at IBM he said. "This gives IBM a way to understand Africa like no other company can."

IBM has installed Mark Dean, an African-American engineer, IBM Fellow and company vice president, to oversee the company's push into Africa as the chief technology officer for IBM Middle East and Africa. Dean, who holds more than 20 patents - some of which are for the IBM PC - is based in Dubai.