A little reminder that we’re not as backwater as we might think.
So being a tech journalist in Zimbabwe, along with a software developer and general tech-head, I have always been well aware of one key fact that most of you know as well: Zimbabwe (and Africa in extension) are behind when it comes to tech. It’s no secret, and it’s a fact that all Zimbo’s have gotten pretty used to. After all if you haven’t lived in an overseas country, you might not even know what newer, better tech is so you might not really care. But while half the reason for all this has been because many of the leading tech companies in the world really tend not to have Africa in their immediate plans , my visit to Microsoft’s Redmond campus last week proved that not only does the company have Africa and other developing markets in mind, but also that thankfully its started making moves to prepare a future in our continent and countries like ours as well.
Now my trip was mainly for Microsoft’s 2019 Global Hackathon but it allowed me and a few select Windows Insiders to also tour around their enormous campus along with meeting a lot of key employees that work on Windows and other Microsoft products.
What both surprised and pleased me was to hear from different employees about how despite seeming like it’s in the past, Africa is actually the future for companies like Microsoft, and how they have been making continuous investments into Africa to prepare it as a viable market for them to move in in a much larger capacity. This is in big ways like the African Development Centers in Kenya and Nigeria, as well as smaller ways like their free 4Afrika Virtual Academy content meant to equip people with the skills required in today’s global economy. Again, it’s free. The most amazing part however was how open a lot of the people we met were open to questions, requests, even criticism on how effectively their services work in African countries. This was the case whenever me or my Kenyan companion brought something up, and that kind of rapport is inspiring to the point of me wishing Zimbabwean companies were like that.
Microsoft’s approach is also aiming to cater for as many African demographics as possible. Simply put, anyone from a regular Windows user, to a school child learning their first PC, to software developers and enterprise works, to even people who don’t use a Windows or Microsoft device but still want to tap into their services somehow. Many of you already know classic products and services you can use like Office, Windows and Bing, but alongside those are newer innovations such as the Microsoft launcher on android or Power Apps like flow for enterprises. Each of these have their intended user, after all , the average user might not use flow at home due to simply not having internet, but a service like OneNote still has it’s use to a student or office worker and works just fine offline, while the Microsoft launcher is a great way to get Android users into the Microsoft ecosystem. And this is without mentioning ideas, products and innovations we saw at the hackathon, which we can’t exactly share, but simply put, Africa, and countries like ours should definitely stop feeling left out when it comes at least Microsoft’s portfolio. There’s a lot on the horizon for our markets and a lot I’m personally looking forward to (if anyone at Microsoft is reading this , ARM-based PC’s might be the future for markets like ours, just make them cheap enough and please bring Cortana and Xbox already). So keep an eye out, because what’s coming next might just change your life for the better.
We’ll be giving more Microsoft coverage from the past week based on what we can share, but also check our social media for more content tell us what you think about tech companies investing in Africa in the comments and on our socials.