2 July 2014

East Africa: Microsoft Announces New Management Changes in Africa and Middle East

Microsoft has made significant management changes in its Africa operations, a move which sees the South African general manager assume a new pan-continental role, while his deputy takes over at home.

Microsoft has announced two big changes in its leadership for the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region, with a new focus on growth in underdeveloped markets and countries such as Iraq, Lebanon, Ethiopia, and Zambia.

According to ZDNet.com, the former GM for South Africa Mteto Nyati has taken over a new role as GM for MEA Emerging Regions. Geographically, Nyati says, that encompasses all of Africa barring Egypt, South Africa, and Nigeria -- where Microsoft has an established local presence -- and Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan in the Middle East. Reporting structures within the company are unchanged.

Zoib Hoosen, who was appointed to the role of South African COO a year ago, will take over the South African business.

Nyati's track record at Microsoft has been strong. When he joined the company six years ago from IBM, he says staff turnover was high and customer satisfaction was low.

"Globally the feeling was that this company was not delivering in line with expectations, that we were declining in period of growth [for the continent]," Nyati says.

Since he took over, he says, Microsoft South Africa has experienced six years of growth and now accounts for 25 percent of the company's MEA business.

Hoosen says that he has no plans to introduce changes to local strategy in the short term. In order to deliver on the corporate slogan of "a cloud on every device", he says Microsoft South Africa will focus on developing skills, reducing the cost of access, and lowering device cost in the local market.

Microsoft recently began testing a TV white spaces pilot program in five schools in Limpopo, which was established a proof of concept for lowering the cost of broadband in rural areas. The TVWS trial was funded out of the company's 4Afrika initiative.

4Afrika is billed as targeted investment for the company, which looks to boost overall economic activity through youth training and business acceleration programs, and subsidises Microsoft products for small businesses and entrepreneurs.

Nyati says that he will continue to be highly involved in the 4Afrika program, which he was instrumental in starting, but that it will develop with "more alignment" to the company's main growth strategy.

"4Afrika has never been a corporate social investment (CSI) project," Nyati says. "It's about doing good by doing good business. It's always a win-win."

Nyati says that he is looking to the Chinese arm of the business for inspiration, and plans to mimic Microsoft's investment in personnel made there across all of Africa. Ultimately, he says, he aims to double the size of the African business for Microsoft within five years.

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