Microsoft will extend its Biz4Afrika SME portal from initial trials in South Africa and Kenya to establish a pan-African version by the end of next month.
Disrupt Africa reported earlier this week Microsoft’s 4Afrika initiative today used the Connected East Africa conference in Diani to launch Biz4Afrika, an online portal for SMEs providing access to information and an online community for entrepreneurs, in Kenya.
The portal is intended to support entrepreneurs by providing a database of information and online tools, and will create a network of connected African SMEs.
Further explaining the thinking behind the portal at the conference, Kunle Awosika, Kenya country manager for Microsoft, said the concept will be extended continent-wide.
“We are also thinking about a pan-African portal that will cater for several African countries, something similar to what we have done in Kenya. We singled out Kenya, but we are extending the portal to every other country,” he said.
“There will be synergy across all these portals. That will ensure we can cross-pollinate.”
Tonia Kariuki, marketing director at Microsoft 4Afrika, said the pan-African portal would be live by the end of May.
“What that allows us to do is to open up a wealth of information to broader African markets,” she said.
Awosika said Microsoft’s belief was that Biz4Afrika would help in terms of creating transactions and communication in the SME sector.
“We really think it will ensure there is growth in the economy and improved productivity later on,” he said.
Kariuki said providing information to entrepreneurs wishing to launch startups in Kenya was behind Biz4Afrika.
“If you want to set up a small business as an African or a Kenyan and you go online and you do a search you never find local relevant content,” she said.
“We know that access to information is a huge factor in terms of enabling that sector. The way we see this evolution is that it becomes a portal that is ultimately not supported by Microsoft. but evolves into a portal where small businesses are able to support themselves. We continue to invest heavily from a content point of view and look for new providers.”
Victor Kyalo, chief executive officer (CEO) at ICT Authority of Kenya (ICTA), welcome the move, and said ICTA would play a facilitatory role in the rollout of Biz4Afrika.
“The talk in the last few months has been about how we grow the local industry. What we have realised is that at times you need to gain knowledge to really be able to use that knowledge,” he said.
“Instead of us reinventing the wheel and trying to do it, we are going to leverage on what Microsoft has already done. At the end of the day it is that value network that will really enable people to do what they want to do.”