Driving Innovation from the start.
Microsoft’s leading West African arm is living up to its credentials as it continues to develop technologies in the region, both internally and within the wider business community
Writer Matthew Staff
Project Manager Donovan Smith
Pairing up one of the world’s leading technology companies with one of the world’s fastest developing countries is proving to be a match made in heaven as Microsoft Nigeria strives to influence Africa’s leading economy in the same way it has influenced the rest of the tech world over the years.
More than most countries on the continent, the Nigerian population has reached a level of technical maturity which is ready to embrace services comparative to those in the most developed western markets.
Among the elite providing such services is Microsoft whose offerings range across consumers and businesses to not only provide the best in technological solutions in the West African country, but to also further educate and develop the communities around it.
On the consumer side, Microsoft’s range speaks for itself. With some of the most recognisable products in the tech world, the brand’s operating system, Office software, Xbox games consoles, and own-name systems are every bit as popular in Nigeria as they are in the rest of the world.
It is from a business standpoint where the organisation has really made a difference in recent years however, as Microsoft Nigeria aids both established multinationals and start-ups – and everything in between – in applying cloud services and the most modern and honed business tools across a variety of sectors.
Education, government, health, legal and professional services are targeted especially through the company’s customisable selection of IT services.
A core focus in 2014 though has been in aiding the rest of the business community in Nigeria, and specifically in helping to get start-up companies off to the best possible start from a technical standpoint.
Microsoft Nigeria was awarded for its efforts in this area at the Nigerian SME Excellence Award and Global Entrepreneurship Week which comprised 15 corporate winners.
Microsoft’s Office 360 product was among the most highly lauded in aiding business management efficiencies; an attribute which the company looks to replicate once again via its Microsoft Ventures initiative.
In partnership with 88mph, the launch of Microsoft Ventures for entrepreneurs in Nigeria will help improve startups’ productivity by providing tools, resources, expertise and routes to market around the world. The hope among the two partners is to replicate the success of the initiative that has already taken off in Kenya on the other side of the continent. “
There is a great opportunity to further develop the start-up ecosystem in Nigeria and drive innovation,” says Amrote Abdella, Director of Start-up Engagement and Partnerships, Microsoft Africa Initiatives. “By expanding Microsoft Ventures into Nigeria, we hope to reinvent productivity for start-ups. “
This means equipping them with the technology that puts their businesses first, by providing affordable devices, cloud-based software and pay-asyou- go models, that enable anytimeanywhere access.”
After global acclaim, Microsoft Ventures’ introduction to Nigeria is already showing early signs of promise and through its partnership with 88mph, there is huge optimism that Microsoft will be able to have the same positive influence on SMEs in Nigeria that it has already had across India, China, Central Europe, the Middle East, South America and the US.
“88mph is a leader in a region where entrepreneurship is thriving and a great source of economic good,” adds Cliff Reeves, Senior Director of Microsoft Ventures. “The Microsoft Ventures team is proud to be partnering with them in Nigeria and we hope to contribute to the success of 88mph, the start-ups they support, and the country as a whole.”
Corporate Social Responsibility
Microsoft Nigeria’s commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility doesn’t just stop in the business arena it works alongside, but has especially come into play this year, in light of specific health challenges in the country.
Filtering down from the philanthropic dedication of Microsoft founder, Bill Gates, the company has played a key role in generating funds and in aiding research towards the continent’s Ebola relief effort.
The world-renowned billionaire has been quick to praise Nigeria as a whole for its work in healthcare initiatives, and is eager to continue this progress, through the Microsoft organisation, relating to diseases like rotavirus and polio.
“The infrastructure Nigeria has built to fight polio actually made it easier for them to swiftly contain Ebola,” Gates notes in his blog.
On a global scale, Gates’ influence can be seen via his Microsoft empire, and with Nigeria a figurehead of economic stability in the west of the continent, there is a certain responsibility placed on the company to help combat these social and financial challenges.
This is a pressure that the company has never shied away from however, and Microsoft continues to enrich the lives of Nigerians both through its charitable activities and its technological developments.
Diversity and Inclusion
Stemming from this core of care within Microsoft is the company’s diversity and inclusion ethos which is especially prevalent in Nigeria.
The Business of Inclusion as it is titled strives “to create an environment that helps Microsoft capitalise on the diversity of its people and the inclusion of ideas and solutions to meet the needs of its increasingly global and diverse customer base”.
In an attempt to become more aligned throughout the entire organisation, the Microsoft Vision is clear as the productivity and platform company for the mobilefirst and cloud-first world.
Mobile and cloud services are forming the crux of any major technology or telecoms company’s development strategy at present, making competition all the more fierce, and Microsoft’s established reputation for quality products and services all the more important.
“We will reinvent productivity to empower every person and every organisation on the planet to do more and achieve more,” the company states. “Our strategy is to maximise the business impact of global diversity and inclusion to empower our people, transform our culture and delight our customers.”
From a people perspective, Microsoft Nigeria is active in fostering greater levels of diversity among its workforce, encouraging general skills development not only within the company but across the technology sector in Nigeria.
People, Culture, Customers
This initiative comprises work alongside local universities, aiding students in more technical areas of computing and rewarding the best and brightest young talent entering the industry with the opportunity to either learn or even work at Microsoft.
In regards to culture, this consists of the company promoting an enhanced environment in which to improve operations, incorporating areas of best practice, problem solving and collaborative working.
This component is especially prominent at senior levels, encouraging a more flexible and inclusive philosophy to filter down through the company.
The same approach to people and cultural development is also applied to Microsoft’s direct customers, to complete the all-encompassing nature of the business’s growth strategy and providing a sustainable platform for future growth in Nigeria.
“Microsoft believes that building the best software means incorporating the talents of our varied workforce into our products, and recognising the needs and priorities of our diverse suppliers, customers, and partner base,” the company concludes. “We are committed to supplier diversity, which includes spending more than US$ 2 billion with certified and highly trained businesses that are minority-owned, women-owned, veteranowned businesses, and owned by persons with disabilities.
“Product innovation is at the heart of Microsoft’s work and we strive to deliver technological innovation through devices and services that inspire people of all ages and abilities as well as eliminate barriers, improve lives, and strengthen communities.”