Microsoft has proposed a series of measures to African governments to promote the use of information and communications technology (ICT) among unemployed youth. Under this partnership, the African Development Bank (AfDB) will invest $20 million in technology to boost access to ICT across Africa.
The announcement came at the AfDB’s Annual Meetings on May 22 in Kigali, Rwanda. Fernando de Sousa, General Manager, Africa Initiatives, at Microsoft, has stressed the important role that ICT can play in creating wealth and jobs for young people in particular.
de Sousa spoke about the partnership between Microsoft and the AfDB, explaining the actions that are being taken in the fields of education, health and agriculture.
The two institutions will develop several types of applications to support capacity building within institutions and private-sector companies. The joint programme also focuses on distance learning and improved access to ICT through the distribution of equipment.
Microsoft’s de Sousa stressed the many challenges that still lay ahead in this area, focusing in particular on the fact that projects require political will to be a success.
He explained that these challenges include the development of an inclusive market regulation policy and the improvement of existing legal frameworks.
"The fact that Africa continues to face electricity shortages and the lack of suitable infrastructure in many countries across the continent also pose major challenges," de Sousa said.
He believes that successful project implementation will require local capacity-building efforts. It is also important to ensure that income-generating and job-creating projects are developed through robust public-private partnerships.
"Under the current environment, young people have the opportunity to use these technologies to their benefit. This will help to reduce the unacceptable levels of inequality in many countries across Africa," de Sousa added.
The education arm of the Microsoft/AfDB partnership will cover Kenya, Namibia and Tanzania only. It will involve the installation and operation of distance-learning systems, which will help to support knowledge-exchange efforts between research institutions.
In terms of health, one project has involved the deployment of a telemedicine system in Botswana, enabling doctors at a leading hospital in Gaborone to collaborate with their peers at the University of Pennsylvania on diagnosis and treatment.