Microsoft is on mission to address Africa's IT skills shortage through its employee volunteer programme MySkills4Afrika which was launched in February this year.
Kunle Awosika, Microsoft Kenya country manager said the programme is designed to enable Microsoft's global employees - both technical and non-technical - to contribute to improving Africa's competitiveness.
"We designed the program in line with the company's heritage of giving back to the communities in which we operate, and in order to advance the overall goals of the 4Afrika Initiative around accelerating innovation, world-class skills and affordable access for Africans," said Awosika.
The programme is a response to the consistent concern from partners about a real skills gap in Africa due to the lack of enough people to hire with the skills needed to meet 21st century business demands including not just ICT skills but also sales, marketing as well as leadership skills.
It aims to train 200,000 Africans by 2016, with 100,000 coming from the existing workforce which is largely made up of Microsoft's partner community while the remaining 100,000 will consist of recent graduates, 75% of who will be helped in terms of jobs placement via partners.
"While 4Afrika is definitely about helping Africa grow, it is not about charity. This is a business strategy for Microsoft's own growth on the continent as well. We believe deeply that helping Africa accelerate economic development and create jobs will help Microsoft achieve our company's mission in Africa. MySkills4Afrika is about developing Africa's business climate to enable people to compete and reach their full potential," stated Owasika, adding that the skills focus is squarely on entrepreneurship and employability, and subsequently helping Africans find and create jobs.
The first batch of about 50 volunteers from 17 countries around the world embarked on the programme in early February after a pilot conducted in 2013 by 49 volunteers. During the pilot, about 667 partners benefited, with the beneficiaries being drawn from Microsoft partners, innovation hubs and NGOs.
One of the beneficiary innovation hubs is Kenya's iHub, which has since February 2013 received most volunteers, both technical and non-technical under the initiative.
"In my opinion, MySkills4Afrika is the best part of the 4Afrika initiative as it is a value add in building talent pool. While the focus remains tech startups and individuals, ironically the kind of people also attending the volunteer trainings at the iHub are non-tech people," said Jessica Colaço, director of partnerships, iHub.
The partnership with iHub is part of the strategic cooperation agreements signed between Microsoft 4Afrika with three incubator organizations across the African continent to enable startups, innovators and Africa's developer community to grow their skills and build businesses with Microsoft technologies.
Apart from Kenya and Uganda, the volunteers will be based across other African countries including South Africa, Nigeria, Botswana, Tunisia, Morocco, Mauritius, Tanzania, and Egypt while an additional 200 people will volunteer virtually.
Overall, MySkills4Afrika is more a skills exchange program in that it allows the volunteers to contribute their skills at the same time learn from local talents/scenario. This also means local employees can also share their skills within the continent to learn from other different scenarios. The focus is on both technical and non-technical skills including project management, Windows 8, Office 365, Public Relations, Human Resource, & Communication, Virtual tools, product design among others. Selection process is very competitive and based on a combination of expertise, experiences, seniority and the ability of the volunteer to champion for impact addressing challenges facing African markets.