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Microsoft 4Afrika launches Biz4Afrika online SME hub

Microsoft 4Afrika used the opening of the Connected East Africa event in Diani, Kenya today to launch Biz4Afrika, an online hub providing Kenyan small and medium enterprises (SMEs) with access to locally relevant information and promote trade.

The online portal is an Africa-wide network of SMEs which Microsoft says is designed to enable a sustainable and connected community of entrepreneurs and have a meaningful impact on job creation, global competitiveness and wealth creation.

Formerly Connected Kenya, the event has this year been expanded to East Africa for the first time under the theme ‘The strength is in our networks’. Kunle Awosika, country manager of Microsoft Kenya, used his opening keynote to launch Biz4Afrika and highlight the importance of the SME sector in boosting intra-African trade.

“East Africa has already been cited by Harvard University as having surpassed the tipping point from primarily exporting raw materials to creating and exporting value-added goods and services,” he said.

“The continued shift from a labour-based economy to a knowledge economy will require increased online presence, particularly by SMEs who contribute about 45% of Kenya’s GDP.”

Awosika said the online hub aims to meet the needs of every startup, small business and medium-sized enterprise at three entry points: the start, growth and acceleration phase, by aggregating freemium offers and relevant online services, complemented by valuable information, resources and learnings in one place.

The baseline services of Biz4Afrika are offered in a ‘freemium’ format, with basic services provided free of charge while more advanced features must be paid for. Awosika said this will enable SMEs to become familiar with pay-as-you-go services that help entrepreneurs maximise their productivity while minimising their costs.

“SMEs can also join the hub as service providers to other businesses, thereby building a pipeline of potential clients. In the past year alone, Microsoft has seen 150,000 SMEs go online across Africa to offer, and to consume, ICT services,” he said.

Darius Waithaka, head of SME Solution Centre at Kenya Institute of Management, said: “We are privileged to be associated with the online hub, which brings together East Africa’s public and private sector to play an important role in creating a conducive environment and harmonizing policies that encourage the growth of the SME sector, providing healthy competitiveness to ensure quality and affordable access to markets, technologies, financial services among others, and promoting and enabling smooth cross-border trade amongst the traders.”