Microsoft has opened its first Africa Development Centre (ADC) in Lagos, Nigeria.
Speaking at the opening event on Friday in Lagos, the executive sponsor of the ADC and executive Vice President at Microsoft, Phil Spencer, said: “The ADC will be unlike any other existing investment on the continent.
“It will help us better listen to our customers, develop locally and scale for global impact.
“Beyond that, it’s an opportunity to engage more with local partners, academia, governments and developers – driving impact and innovation in sectors important to Africa.”
The centre, which is Microsoft’s 7th globally, would also be recruiting world-class African engineering talents to develop innovative solutions that span the Artificial Intelligence cloud amidst other cutting-edge technologies.
The ADC is a single development centre with initial sites in Lagos, Nigeria and Nairobi, Kenya. The ADC will initially be housed within existing Microsoft offices in both Lagos and Nairobi but expand to new purpose-built facilities soon, the leading global tech firm stated.
“Increased Microsoft’s presence in Africa will empower partners and customers as they use Microsoft solutions in fields important to the continent like FinTech, AgriTech and OffGrid energy.
“With the initial team of engineers already starting work, the ADC intends to recruit 100 full-time engineers by the end of 2019 – expanding to 500 across the two sites by 2023. Applications are open on the ADC website. For the ADC, Microsoft is seeking engineering talent in artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and mixed reality,” it added.
Also speaking, Professor Kayode Alese, a professor of Computer Science at the Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA) said, “For more than 20 years I have taught computer science to enthusiastic African students, but still Africa has been referred to as the last technology frontier.
“The fact that Microsoft has taken the giant step of setting up its first development centre in Nigeria is a testament to the huge talent base that exists in our academic institutions. It is a great time to be a Nigerian.”
“We have already started our work in Nigeria around our mixed reality offering and I am very much looking forward to the kind of innovation that will come from the ADC,” said Alex Kipman, Technical Fellow (AI & Mixed Reality) at Microsoft and the team lead of the first ADC team in Lagos.
“I am looking to learn, understand, and work hard so that we can grow together organically,” he added.
In his speech at the event, the country manager for Microsoft Nigeria, Akin Banuso, said: “Microsoft recently opened its first hyper-scale data centres in Africa, and this next milestone is particularly significant for Nigeria.
“The reason we selected Nigeria as one of the first ADC sites is to better understand a continent that is rapidly adopting cloud technology and innovation at the intelligent edge.
“We view Nigeria as a leading regional digital innovation hub, and the ADC aims to invest in and accelerate the work being done here.”
Banuso added: “Microsoft is already empowering many Nigerian innovations at the edge, with partners like Interswitch and fintech start-up Flutterwave.
“Energyrathon Consulting in Nigeria is also a recent AI for Earth grant recipient, which is developing AI-enabled systems to track pollution spread patterns in underground water aquifers, and protect fresh water and marine ecosystems. We’re excited to drive more innovations like this from the ADC.”
In his remark, the founder and group CEO of Interswitch, Mitchell Elegbe, opined that “we are building an ecosystem driven by data and technology that provides millions of businesses and individuals with intuitive transaction solutions and payment experiences.”
“Microsoft is a partner whose vision aligns with ours as we scale payment innovation across Africa.
“Both organisations provide infrastructure and technology that makes life easier for our customers, and we are using a variety of cutting-edge Microsoft solutions, not only to power our enterprise software stack, but also in application with specific use cases like blockchain-based remittances. We are both helping to solve some of Africa’s most challenging financial and logistic problems,” Elegbe noted.
The joint investment in ADC infrastructure and employment of qualified local engineers is expected to total US $100 million over the first five years of operation.
Microsoft Cognition and Microsoft Windows teams will kick-start the ADC efforts, focusing on AI-enabled cloud services, mixed reality experiences and rich applications that power the intelligent edge without disruption.
To support the development of these required skills, Microsoft is also partnering with local universities to create a modern intelligent edge and cloud curriculum, unique to Africa.
Graduates from top Nigerian engineering universities will have access to the ADC to build relevant and meaningful careers in data science, AI, mixed reality, application development and more.
It will be recalled that Microsoft has operated on the continent for more than 25 years, building partnerships to bridge the gaps in infrastructure, connectivity and capability to accelerate innovation.
Similarly, Microsoft 4Afrika, Microsoft’s business and market development engine on the continent, is preparing the market to embrace cloud technology.
The programme has upskilled more than 1.6 million Africans and brought more than 700,000 small and medium-sized businesses online and connected schools, universities and healthcare clinics to the internet for the first time, according to the tech giant.