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New alliance plans internet rollout to 20m in Africa

By , Portals editor
Africa , 02 Mar 2023
Brad Smith, Vice Chair and President, Microsoft.
Brad Smith, Vice Chair and President, Microsoft.

Microsoft has entered into a partnership with Liquid Intelligent Technologies to provide internet connectivity to an additional 20 million people in Africa by 2025.

This alliance is part of Microsoft’s ongoing Airband initiative to extend high-speed internet access to 250 million people from unserved and underserved regions globally, including 100 million in Africa.

The software firm announced the emboldened Liquid alliance ahead of the 5th United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), scheduled to take place from 5 to 9 March in Doha, Qatar.

With LDCs in mind, Microsoft affirmed its commitment to digital infrastructure, skilling and development “to help achieve sustained, equitable economic growth in the 46 least developed countries.”

According to UN intergovernmental body UNCTAD, Africa is home to 33 of these 46 countries.

The company also plans to roll out a digital skills training initiative, in conjunction with the International Organisation of Employers and Synapse, to empower 20,000 youth, women and entrepreneurs in DRC, Lesotho, Senegal and Uganda.

It will also collaborate with Planet Labs PBC and the Institute for Health Metrics & Evaluation at the University of Washington in the use of AI and satellite imagery to better understand the shifting of populations for the delivery of needs and essential resources.

In his blog post, Brad Smith, Vice Chair and President, Microsoft, said, “Fifty years after the LDCs were classified by the UN as nations most in need of social, economic and environmental opportunities to create growth, these 46 countries combined account for 13% of the world’s population, but only about 1.5% of global GDP and less than 1% of global trade. It is clear that more needs to be done.”

Smith added: “The private sector can play an important role in creating opportunities for the 880 million people living in LDCs, where only 36% of the population uses the internet today and it’s important for Microsoft to do its part.”

According to Smith, Liquid operates Africa’s largest independently owned network with over 100,000km of fibre stretching across the continent. This programme, he said, will reach a number of markets across Africa including the DRC and Zambia.

In terms of AI and its relevance to Africa’s digital strategy, Smith said while there are no silver bullets, transformational technology such as AI provides new and real ways to advance the Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs.

“In 2023, the rapid changes in transformative technologies, like AI, and the ability to deepen multi-stakeholder partnerships provide real opportunity to advance the SDGs. As an SDG advocate, I hope we can collectively capitalise on the opportunity at hand. The need for public-private partnerships has never been clearer. This is not a philanthropic exercise, but rather a business imperative – and a call to action for all of us to do more.”

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