Microsoft is announcing that it is expanding its partnership with the African Development Bank (AfDB) to support Africa’s young entrepreneurs facing a lack of investment and affordable access to finance under the bank’s Youth Entrepreneurship Investment Banks (YEIB) Initiative.
The expanded partnership seeks to support the establishment of national-level institutions through a public-private collaboration model to scale up technical and financial support for youth entrepreneurs and build their capacity. Through its African Transformation Office (ATO), Microsoft will work with the bank to develop youth entrepreneurship ecosystems, create jobs, and scale impact in Africa through digital inclusion.
Youth entrepreneurship, Microsoft notes will go a long way to solving the employment challenge. But admits a lack of investment, affordable access to finance, and quality business development services still present significant hurdles. The Youth Entrepreneurship Investment Bank is a unique value proposition set up by the African Development Bank that anchors and integrates efforts to develop entrepreneurship ecosystems in Africa.
“We believe much can be done to help foster youth entrepreneurship by collaborating with the African Development Bank, driving greater economic inclusion for this key segment of the population, and ultimately building a more prosperous society,” says the General Manager of Microsoft Africa Regional Cluster Wael Elkabbany. “Already we’ve seen considerable success partnering on initiatives such as Coding for Employment, which aims to equip millions of African youth with employable skills, ultimately creating broadscale employment“, he adds.
Through this initiative, the AfDB will bring together all relevant financial and non-financial parties and partners to play their respective roles in supporting youth entrepreneurs through mentorship, coaching, knowledge and experience sharing, and more.
The African Development Bank Vice President for Private Sector, Infrastructure, and Industrialization Solomon Quaynor says: “The strengthening of our partnership with Microsoft on the Youth Entrepreneurship Investment Banks (YEIB) is an important development in our journey towards harnessing Africa’s demographic dividend and facilitating the creation of millions of jobs for young Africans by 2025. The initiative places much-needed focus on youth entrepreneurship, which is key to achieving our ambitious employment targets.”
Collaborating with both private sectors and partners, the Youth Entrepreneurship Investment Bank will establish a funding scheme, credit guarantee scheme, and technical assistance programs to strengthen providers of services to entrepreneurs. In terms of policy support, it will advocate to governments for the business-enabling environment reforms needed to catalyse youth entrepreneurship.
Microsoft says it will also leverage its partner ecosystem, which covers 54 countries across the continent, to act on crucial technology solutions across four key areas. These include skilling, connectivity, small-to-medium enterprise (SME) digitization, and hardware:
To connect youth to economic opportunity and employability skills, the partnership will provide them with career pathways and learning content. This includes the use of existing e-learning platforms such as Coding for Employment. The initiative also aims to build the capacity of Enterprise Services Organizations, benefitting youth through training trainers.
By leveraging successful connectivity solutions such as Microsoft Airband, the partnership will develop effective infrastructure models to help bridge the digital divide. At the same time, it will support other innovative solutions on the market either through direct or indirect investment.
Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) digitization
The partnership also aims to improve SME digital literacy and business skills by creating access to curated learning content, certifications, business solutions, business skills, and specialized digital skills. This will be driven in partnership with LinkedIn and through skilling programs such as MS Learn and the Cloud Academy. Access to finance for digitally enabled SMEs will also be facilitated through Microsoft partnerships.
SME access to bundled hardware solutions will be created by Microsoft and its partners. SMEs will also be able to purchase Microsoft technology at discounted prices.
The partnership also forms an important part of Microsoft ATO’s mission to empower 10 million SMEs through access to skilling initiatives and investments, and to generate the capacity needed to scale and provide digital skills to 30 million Africans.