Under the agreement, the World Bank and Microsoft will develop programs to support several of the World Bank's core development priorities across Sub-Saharan Africa including: science and technology, increasing ICT access for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), developing the local software economy and local ICT skills, enhancing remittances technology, and building Sub-Saharan Africa's disaster response capabilities.

“Our goal is to help bring the region into today's knowledge society and build its own internal resources to support the creation of competitive local economies,” said Obiageli Ezekwesili, World Bank Vice President for Africa. “We greatly value the expertise that our private sector partners like Microsoft bring, in this case a deep understanding of technology as an enabler. Through this partnership we will explore the transformational power of ICT to create new economic opportunities in the region. We look forward to forging similar partnerships with other ICT industry players.”

A select number of programs will be implemented under the partnership and will include feedback, monitoring and evaluation to drive accountability for results. Proposed initiatives include adapting the Microsoft Innovation Center model to offer software development courses in education, business skills and market development training, and youth empowerment programs, serving as the basis for local job creation.

In the education sector, the partners will organize a workshop to share proven practices with other developing countries on supporting African university diaspora research in collaboration with African universities. And in the area of remittances, the partnership will explore developing mobile telephony to ensure quick and smooth remittance services to remote or rural areas, as well as broadening network coverage of telephone services across the region.

Supporting disaster relief solutions through technology will also be an important part of the collaboration. Using Microsoft's disaster relief solutions, the World Bank and Microsoft will explore developing a Disaster Management Information System for Africa with applications for risk assessment/mitigation, disaster preparedness and sustainable technologies for Early Warning Systems.

“As partners in Africa's development, we believe that technology can have a long-lasting and meaningful role in addressing many current challenges. Our partnership with the World Bank, and those with other development organizations in the region, including the African Union, African Development Bank, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), is part of our commitment to help unlock Africa's potential through ICT,” said Frank McCosker, managing director, Microsoft Global Strategic Accounts.

The World Bank and Microsoft have previously worked together around the world on several initiatives. Also in Sub-Saharan Africa, the World Bank and Microsoft have collaborated in an advisory role to support the development of the Rwandan government's ICT policy which has already constructed a Knowledge Management solution for the country's cabinet.

The partnership further reinforces Microsoft's support to drive internally generated and sustainable growth in Africa. The company first began operations in Sub-Saharan African in 1992 and has expanded to 13 offices in 9 countries, with more than 600 employees and over 17,000 commercial partners across the continent. #