“This is a Microsoft initiative to bring people who either live on the continent or live outside [that are] successful in their own right, and get them together on how they can contribute towards improving the lives of Africans through technology,” Benjamin Mophatlane, co-founder of Business Connexion and council member, told ABN Digital in an exclusive interview.
“[The council is] also looking at the challenges Africa has in terms of youth unemployment, bringing small businesses online and also just making sure that, from a Microsoft perspective, they can get different perspectives of people who have made a contribution to the continent.”
Council members also include Shanduka Group CEO Phuti Mahanyele, Richard Attias, founder of the New York Forum and Juliana Rotich, executive director for Ushahidi and senior TED fellow from Kenya, among others.
Chaired by former president of Tanzania Benjamin Mkapa, the council will monitor and assist already established investments through the Microsoft 4Afrika initiative in the continent.
The council also plans to implement a number of events to channel engagement and conversation around some of the continent’s major barriers to Africa’s global competitiveness.
The World Bank recently raised Africa’s GDP growth forecast for 2014 to above five per cent, indicating the vast opportunities for the utilisation of information and communications technology in important sectors such as education.
Nigeria’s first locally-made tablet, Opon Imo, has already been introduced to secondary schools to help learners use technology on an educational level.
One of the challenges has been to educate teachers on how to incorporate technology in the classroom and how to operate the devices.
“Where we need to be intervening is at a teacher level. We need to prioritise the teachers, help them not to be afraid of IT and bring them up to speed when it comes to computer literacy,” said Mteto Nyati, Microsoft South Africa managing director.
“Once you have done that, provide them with devices that will keep them current.”
Additional seats in the council for young leaders from various parts of the continent have also been allocated. This is in an effort to fully represent the continent, as almost half of Africa population under the age of 30.
The council will meet twice a year, and hold a series of leadership seminars across the continent.
Microsoft is also a part of the recently-launched Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI).
“The driving force for us is that this is a mission to make the impossible possible through technology. By doing that, we can improve lives of Africans. We can learn a lot out of the council, we can also adopt technologies that are much more relevant to the continent that can make an impact,” said Mophatlane.