This week, Microsoft is hosting its NexTech Africa event in Nairobi, Kenya. The event is described as a "meeting of the minds designed to engage, empower and inspire" people from every walk of life across the continent.
This morning, NexTech kicked off with an inspiring keynote address, which included a message from the Cabinet Secretary of Kenya's ICT Ministry, who said that the country was "so proud" to be hosting the event. A central theme of the keynote was the need to "build for Africa", to understand the unique needs and requirements of businesses and consumers there, rather than simply expecting existing products and solutions to thrive unchanged across those markets.
Last year, Microsoft launched the Nigeria Fellowship as part of its Windows Insider Program, and it's now expanding its African efforts further, with today's announcement of the East African Fellowship.
Under Microsoft's global #Insiders4Good initiative, the new Fellowship targets entrepreneurs in Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. "We are looking for entrepreneurs like you," Microsoft said today, "problem-solvers who think deeply about the issues confronting their communities, visionaries who create solutions that could address these issues, and leaders that grow opportunities for their solutions to thrive in the market."
Applicants to the East Africa Fellowship don't need to have a technology-based idea to be considered. Indeed, Patricia Jumi - managing director and co-founder of GrowthAfrica, with which Microsoft is partnering on the new Fellowship - explained today that its purpose is to help people use technology to solve real-world problems and change people's lives, but tech doesn't need to be the core of the idea itself.
Of all those who apply, Microsoft will select 25 entrepreneurs to the Fellowship, providing them with "a premier suite of Windows hardware and software, and a 6-month mentorship program", which will include "tailored technical and strategic mentorship from local and international leaders".
Today, during the NexTech keynote, Olayinka Olanrewaju - a Fellow from Microsoft's earlier program in Nigeria - discussed the launch of his new company Lawcademy, which he started up with support from Microsoft.
He said that Microsoft had provided him with the expertise and knowledge to help develop the idea for his company into what he hopes will be a viable business. "The idea is the smallest part of the entire business," he said after the event, noting that without the understanding of what it takes to turn that idea into a sustainable operation, the chances of its success would have been much lower.
With Microsoft's help, he said, he was able to discuss and develop his initial concept into a fully-formed plan to start his new company. Lawcademy - which provides learning support to Nigerian law students - launched yesterday, and initial interest was so high that his website struggled to keep up with demand.
Those interested in applying for the new #Insiders4Good East African Fellowship can do so before March 31, 2017, but applicants "are encouraged to apply well in advance of the deadline", as Microsoft is anticipating a high level of interest. You can apply, or find out more about the new Fellowship at InsiderFellows.com.