Providing Access to Technology for SMEs in Africa
||Software & Computer Services
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in many developing countries face a significant
challenge in accessing hardware and software to leverage the benefits of Information and
Communication Technology (ICT). The objective of the Microsoft/UNIDO partnership is to tackle the
root causes of poverty by promoting innovative uses of ICT that support entrepreneurship and help
create business opportunities, especially for SMEs in Africa.
Microsoft is committed to leveraging technology to help enable social and economic
development. The company was interested in working with UNIDO because of the agency’s in-depth
expertise on small-scale entrepreneurship programmes. Furthermore, UNIDO is in a unique position to
act as a neutral broker by bringing together various stakeholders, including governments, the SME
community and local development agencies. Both the expertise and the support of various
stakeholders are needed to develop ICT-based solutions for SMEs in developing countries.
Under the UNIDO-Microsoft partnership framework agreement, the following initiatives are being
1) Investment Monitoring Platform: Microsoft has supported UNIDO through the
development of a technology solution to enhance the effectiveness of the Africa Investment
Promotion Agency Network (AfrIPANet) initiative. A key UNIDO programme, AfrIPANet helps
policy-makers tailor their strategies to attract foreign direct investment and private
decision-makers to make sound investment choices. Microsoft has applied its technology to enhance
the analysis and tracking functionality of the network’s information platform for greater
effectiveness. The solution increases transparency, information sharing and the articulation of
strategies while creating synergies for the four categories of end users – companies, government
agencies, development partners and civil society.
2) Rural Business Information Centers: UNIDO had already started a programme in
Uganda to establish eight Business Information Centers in rural towns in Uganda, offering business
advisory services, information access and training to small-scale entrepreneurs. Microsoft works
with UNIDO to provide technology access, curriculum and training development and guidance on
sustainability models to help support the centers.
3) UNIDO-Microsoft Refurbished Computer Initiative: This UNIDO-Microsoft programme
addresses the widespread demand for access to affordable hardware. The aim of the initiative is to
build a sustainable business model for refurbished computers in Africa, which focuses on SMEs as
their primary clients. During the African sub-regional Forum on ICT Best Practices held in
Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso in June 2007, UNIDO and Microsoft officially launched the joint
Refurbished Computer Initiative.
Benefits to Society
Within less than a year after signing the Partnership Agreement, both parties have initiated
three solid co-operation projects. The partnership aims to support SMEs in developing countries by
providing relevant software as well as access to affordable, quality hardware and training tools.
Furthermore, the investment-monitoring platform provides greater transparency, thereby enhancing
communication between governments and foreign investors. Through these achievements, the
partnership hopes to strengthen entrepreneurship and business opportunities, attract more
investment to the region and stimulate the growth of powerful new technologies.
Benefits to the Company
The partnership provides a platform to further expand Microsoft’s commitment to help enable
new avenues of social and economic empowerment through access to technology. Collaborative
programmes designed to bring the benefits of technology and related skills to entrepreneurs in SMEs
in Africa promote jobs and opportunities, and help the company gain a better understanding of the
needs of the emerging information technology markets in the region.
(Source: Joining Forces for Change: Demonstrating Innovation and Impact through UN-Business
Partnerships, UN Global Compact Office 2007)
(Last update 5 January 2008)