Microsoft drives local innovation in North Africa
At this year’s Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) in Morocco, Microsoft has signed a new strategic alliance with Tunisian startup Saphon Energy, a company that specialises in the research and development of wind energy. The company also introduced the first round of 50 women entrepreneurs to go through its Cloud Startup Academy. This is in-line with Microsoft 4Afrika’s commitment to support African startups to innovate for the continent and the world.
“North Africa is an important region to us. We see tremendous potential for technology in the region to transform the lives of people, increase business aptitude and bring positive change across society,” says Samir Benmakhlouf, Managing Director of Microsoft Morocco, who at this year’s GES will also be leading the workshop discussion around: Talent to Entrepreneurship. “Microsoft 4Afrika’s support of Saphon Energy is a perfect illustration of our commitment to promote new ideas born in Africa with the potential to change the world.”
Saphon Energy, a clean-tech company, is the creator and owner of a breakthrough and patented technology, which converts wind energy into electricity. Known as the ‘Saphonian’ or ‘Zero-blade Wind Converter’, the bladeless and rotation-less technology can also be used to pump water and spread connectivity. The technology has already been awarded with a number of international prizes, including: Best Idea at the Sustainable Entrepreneurship 2013 Awards and one of the Innovation Prizes for Africa in 2013.
“The Saphonian has the potential to contribute to transforming the African economic landscape and triggering deep social progress across the continent,” says Anis Aouini, Creator and Founder of Saphon Energy. “By improving connectivity and electricity availability, the technology will support entrepreneurship and improve employability.”
Through the collaboration, Saphon Energy will receive financial resources, technology support and large scale visibility to help them validate the revolutionary aspects and industrial capacity of their invention. Additionally, Saphon Energy is developing “Maraya” a solution that enables the collection and monitoring of data leveraging the benefits of Microsoft Azure Machine Learning services.
“Personally, I’ve always been impressed by the impact of Microsoft in shaping the new global economy based on intelligence and authentic lateral thinking. Today, it is a real privilege for me and the whole team of Saphon Energy to join forces with Microsoft and connect their intelligence with ours. Support from companies like Microsoft is very important to help African tech companies transcend, scale and unleash their true innovative potential,” adds Anis.
Growth of female entrepreneurs in the region is also vital to boosting local economies and disposable income. Microsoft recently collaborated with AFEM to launch a Cloud Startup Academy, the first program of its kind in Morocco whose mission is to help young women launch innovative startups based on the latest Cloud technology. The first round of 50 women began their training on 17 November 2014.
“We believe that cloud computing has the greatest potential to transform competitiveness amongst SMEs and start-ups, delivering greater access to IT, slashing costs and enabling more agile, innovative business models. We look forward to seeing the business models that come out of the Academy,” says Samir.
Through events like GES 2014, ongoing partnerships with innovation hubs and on-the-ground programs and internships, Microsoft hopes to continue identifying and supporting more innovations from Africa. Other 4Afrika beneficiary startups present at GES included iTaxi.ma from Morocco and Chifco from Tunisia.