Why Tech giants like Google and Microsoft are investing in Africa
What if you could tell what was wrong with your plant by simply hovering your smartphone over it?
Well, farmers in Africa now can.
Thanks to one of Google’s many products, TensorFlow, rural farmers on the continent can diagnose diseased plants by taking a photo of it.
TensorFlow came with the launch of Google’s artificial intelligence (AI) center in Accra, Ghana’s capital city earlier this year.
The center, one of the multinational tech company’s many investments in Africa, is comprised of researchers and engineers from around the continent building resources to solve various African problems through AI.
Just as Google is using technology to create tools that address Africa’s growing needs, Microsoft continues to invest in growing tech talents on the continent.
This week, the company launched its Africa Development Centre (ADC) with two initial sites in Nairobi, Kenya and Lagos, Nigeria.
Microsoft’s development center
More than 100 local engineers and developers will be hired to work in the new Microsoft facilities in both countries across artificial intelligence, machine learning and mixed reality innovation, according to Microsoft. The plan is to grow this pool of workers to 500 by 2023.
“Our desire is to recruit exceptional engineering talent across the continent that will build innovative solutions for global impact,”said Michael Fortin, Microsoft’s corporate vice president in a statement.
Fortin said Microsoft was hoping to create opportunities for engineers to work from their home countries while also being a part of the larger global engineering organization.
Africa tech analyst, Bankole Oluwafemi, believes that the initial focus on Nigeria and Kenya is because both countries have large developer communities.
Kenya and Nigeria in the past decade have earned reputations as technology havens for their major tech startups, funding and mobile access.
And according to a report from Disrupt Africa, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa raised the highest funds for technology startups in Africa last year, emerging as the top investment destinations for early-stage technology firms on the continent.
Technology giants in Africa
Now approaching 226 million, the number of smartphone connections across Africa has doubled over the last two years, according to a report published by GSMA on Africa’s mobile economy.
This leap coupled with the growing number of technology hubs and companies in major African cities is a boon for tech investors. It’s why Microsoft and Google are not the only international technology companies staking their claims on the continent.
Technology company, Andela, famous for identifying and training software developers currently has three technology campuses in Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda. The company has created tech talent factories on the continent over the past years.
And in March, Chinese telecom giant Huawei joined the league, too – announcing the launch of two data centers in South Africa.
Aside from employment, the presence of international tech hubs on the continent gives African developers and engineers the chance to work on global projects at a large scale, Africa tech entrepreneur and Andela Co-founder, Iyin Aboyeji says.
“Prior to now African developers had to leave their countries to get global opportunities. Now those opportunities are meeting them on the continent,” he told CNN.
For Aboyeji, the development affirms the competence and talents of tech developers in Africa.
“My hope is that these opportunities are not concentrated in just the large cities but extend to other places,” he added.