Microsoft has announced new partnerships and initiatives for 46 Least Developed Countries (LDC). The tech giant will partner up with Africa's biggest independent fiber network, Liquid Intelligent Technologies, to extend internet coverage to an additional 20 million people in Africa by 2025.
The partnership is part of Microsoft's Airband initiative. It aims to bring high-speed internet connectivity to unconnected communities around the world. The agreement will bring high-speed internet access to underserved areas including LDCs such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zambia.
Microsoft's President Brad Smith 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."
Microsoft also has a new skilling initiative with the International Organization of Employers and Synapse that will train 20,000 youth, women, and entrepreneurs in digital, business, and employability skills across four LDCs. High-speed internet access will need more resources to grow the digital ecosystem.
“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. 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."
The Redmond company is also scaling its Digital Agriculture Platform with OCP Africa that will offer fertilizer solutions adapted to local conditions and the needs of soils and crops across Africa. This will support more than 40 million farmers and agri-stakeholders in Africa by 2030.
Microsoft's initiatives come ahead of the United Nations' LDC5 Private Sector Forum, which is intended to explore different ways to accelerate sustainable development for LDCs by digital means.