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Microsoft in Africa An infographic detailing Microsoft’s activities in Africa over the last 20 years. Click on the image for a larger version. 13 August 2013 – Global software giant Microsoft is to provide 1 000 scholarships to promising young people across Africa to study for world-class associate degrees in computer science and business administration through its 4Afrika Scholarship Programme, announced in 12 August – International Youth Day.

The degrees are offered through the internet-based University of the People,  an open institution established to help democratise education, affiliated with the United Nations, the Clinton Global Initiative, New York University and the Yale Law School Information Society Project.

“Microsoft’s goal with the 4Afrika Scholarship program is to level the playing field for talented young African minds who might not otherwise have the resources, enabling them to get the education and skills they need to thrive in technology-related fields,” said Patrick Onwumere, director of youth enablement at Microsoft 4Afrika.

“The 4Afrika Initiative was designed to help ensure that Africa can become globally competitive, and investing in our highly motivated youth is a critical step toward making that a reality.”

Scholarship students will get additional support from Microsoft to enhance their skills and work experience with mentorships, technical training, certification, internships and part-time and full-time jobs at Microsoft and its more than 10 000 partner companies across Africa.

The scholarships are open to young people aged 18 years upwards, from all African countries. Interested students must first apply to the University of the People and, upon admittance, submit a request for financial aid from the Microsoft 4Afrika Scholarship Programme. The degree programme begins in November.

“University of the People works hard to ensure that university-level education is a possibility for the masses, and through the 4Afrika Scholarship program, Microsoft is helping us extend that possibility even further in Africa,” said Shai Reshef, president of the University of the People.

“We are proud to be working with Microsoft to help create amazing opportunities and open new doors for Africa’s youth.”

Driving economic development

The scholarship programme is the latest project in Microsoft’s US$75-million 4Afrika Initiative, launched in February this year, which aims to actively engage in Africa’s economic development to improve the continent’s global competitiveness.

With 75% of its 1.1-billion-plus population under the age of 25, Africa is the youngest and among the fastest growing regions in world. A dynamic youth population of more than 750 million must be educated with relevant skills, given access to affordable devices and services and enabled to create innovative solutions that address both Africa’s opportunities and its problems.

At its launch in February this year, Microsoft’s 4Afrika Initiative made three broad commitments to close the digital divide and use technology to boost development:

  • Distribute tens of millions of smartphones to young Africans
  • Help 1-million small African businesses improve their competitiveness
  • Train hundreds of thousands of Africans with skills for entrepreneurship and employability

The 4Afrika Scholarships are aimed at the third commitment.

Strategic campaign

4Afrika is not an aid project, but rather a strategic campaign which will help create and galvanise a significant, largely untapped market. The goal is to empower every African who has a great idea for a business or an application and to turn that idea into a reality which in turn can help their community, their country, or even the continent at large.

Students wanting to apply for the first 4Afrika Scholarships to attend University of the People must be at least 18 years old, have a high school diploma and be proficient in English, as all coursework is taught in that language.

They must also have access to the internet to take part in online classes. To ensure connectivity, Microsoft is making working space available to successful applicants living near its Innovation Centres in Tunisia, Tanzania, Uganda and Botswana. The company is also working with its partner hubs across Africa to make similar arrangements for other students.

To help close the gender gap in African higher education, Microsoft is actively encouraging young women to apply.

Applications for 4Afrika Scholarships to University of the People can be submitted online at http://www.uopeople.org/4afrika. The first 4Afrika Scholarship students will begin classes in November 2013. Further information about the 4Afrika Scholarship Programme is available at http://www.youth4afrika.com.

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