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VENTURES AFRICA- Microsoft has launched an online business platform, Biz4Afrika for South African SMEs, offering entrepreneurs access to a range of free products and services.
The hub (southafrica.biz4afrika.com), is a collaboration between Microsoft, Vodacom, the National Small Business Chamber (NSBC) and the Small Business Development Agency (SEDA). It is designed to assist SMEs in launching online businesses and is offered for free during the first year.
The platform also provides SME’s with business services in finance and insurance, accounting, legal, marketing, administration and technology, while connecting them with existing ecommerce marketplaces where they can sell their products.
Microsoft’s Chief Operating Officer (COO), Kevin Turner said the hub is a strategic component of the tech giant’s 4Afrika Initiative announced earlier this year, when the company revealed its vision to bring one million African SMEs online in the next 3 years.
According to Turner, Microsoft’s objective is to help more SMEs transition into, and benefit from modern IT in a bid to improve their overall competitiveness.
“Our commitments under the 4Afrika banner are focused on actively engaging in Africa’s economic development, and for SMEs, this means providing training on how to apply technology to their business and helping them understand how they can benefit from a broad range of available devices and services,” he said.
Presently, the service is only available in South Africa but will be launched in other African countries over time.
Last month, a research released by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) showed a direct correlation between technology adoption and revenue gains. The research stipulated that in the last 3 years, SME’s that were early technology adopters created more jobs and grew revenues 15 percent faster than those with little or no technological capacity.
The report further explained that high-performing SMEs stayed ahead of mainstream IT adoption, riding new waves of advancement to improve productivity, connection with new customers and markets, and competing with bigger players.
Microsoft South Africa’s MD, Mteto Nyati said the research underlined the company’s belief that the best way of addressing unemployment in Africa was by creating small businesses.
“If we can help small companies to succeed in the first three-five years of their lives, we will help grow job creation and economic development significantly,” Nyati said.
“By doing this, we’re supporting government’s national priorities of creating jobs, growing skills and giving people meaningful work, while investing in local communities to help remove some of the systematic barriers that hold SMEs back.”
Speaking at the project launch, Primedia Broadcasting Head of Communications, and Head of Crime Line, Yusuf Abramjee, noted that “a lot” hinges on getting South Africa’s entrepreneurial culture right.
According to him, “South Africa is a society of extremes. A glittering modern consumer culture sits alongside a society mired in dire poverty. South Africa’s unemployment rate, at 25 percent of the workforce, is one of the worst in the world.
“There is growing recognition that the job creation outcomes of economic development are not solely about putting unemployed people to work for a wage, as important as that is, but about offering those presently excluded a stake in society.”
In ensuring sustainability of the project, Nyati said Microsoft will place one IT intern in each of SEDA’s 43 centres across the country, where they will receive on-the-job-training on technology and other SME-related issues to become fully-fledged SME businesses and technology consultants to needy communities.