Charmain Wasunna, from United States International University (USIU) has for the past one month been exposed to knowledge she would never have acquired from a classroom setting.
She is part of Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative internship, MySkills4Afrika program. Like many other interns under this program, Wasunna has been introduced to some of Microsoft channels, that the company employs to run its businesses, incentives and all its evangelist programs in Windows application development, building relationship with students and other general marketing activities.
“I have learnt how to deal with customers, work etiquette, marketing distribution models and a bit of project planning, and now am a better person at work than I was after school.” Wasunna told Tech Moran. She hopes to be absorbed at Microsoft after her training.
Having graduated recently, Wasunna is part of the 200,000 Africans Microsoft has made a commitment to up skill by 2016. Microsoft aims to train 100,000 from the existing workforce through its partner community and 100,000 recent graduates, 75% of which it will help place in jobs among its partner network and several others will be encouraged to create jobs.
According to a survey done by PricewateHouseCoopers (PwC), 75% of CEOs in the region are in need of skilled workers, especially since Africa will attract USD 150 billion foreign trades by 2015. The biggest challenge is the capacity of skilled workers to meet business requirements.
MySkills4Afrika program is set to fill this gap by training recent graduates and employed staff in Microsoft’s partner network.
“The MySkills4Afrika initiative aims to help transfer vital skills and perspectives to enable Africans grow, innovate and compete globally, says Kunle Awosika, Microsoft Country Manager Kenya.
“MySkills4Afrika was designed in line with the company’s heritage of giving back to the communities in which we operate, and in order to advance the overall goals of the 4Afrika Initiative around accelerating innovation, world-class skills and affordable access for Africans.”
The initiative also aims to promote better understanding of the African markets throughout the company, addressing local challenges and promote global leadership and skills development amongst Microsoft employees offer both their technical and non-technical – to contribute to improving Africa’s competitiveness.
The employees contribute their time, talent and expertise through mentoring, coaching to give businesses founders and recent graduates in Africa necessary expertise to function in a 21st century business environment.
“There’s inadequate ICT, sales, marketing, project management and leadership skills among most of groups were are working with,” says Martina Hennessy volunteer from Microsoft who is working with groups of entrepreneurs at iHub. “You’ll find one group has this skills set and lacks in another. “
Hennessy, working with startup entrepreneurs at iHub is among the first wave of approximately 50 volunteers from 17 countries around the world who are working with Microsoft partners, innovation hubs, and NGOs across the continent to impart the necessary skills among the youth to change lives on the continent.
She is part of the MySkills4Afrika employee volunteer program that selects employees from various departments at Microsoft to come to Africa and impart skills and also learn from Microsoft’s various partners in Africa, which include tech hubs, businesses, NGO’s and government arms. The initiative’s focus is both technical and non-technical. Some of the focus areas include project management, sales, marketing, leadership, public relations, human resource and communication.
Although the volunteers contribute their skills they also stand a chance to learn from experiences of locals businesses and Microsoft partners and employees so that at the end of the day, they can champion for skills that will help address the challenges facing Microsoft partners in African markets.
Apart from tech hubs, the volunteers extended their skills to Microsoft partners for example Techno Brain, where they empowered the management with various technical and marketing skills. Techno Brain’s Regional Sales Director Samar Patel says his firm has been Microsoft’s biggest partner since 2004 and also has various programs aimed to impart employees and the youth with employable skills.
“Due to the shortfalls in the training programs at universities, we transfer skills and shed knowledge to the interns to help them become better at work. This is not just technical knowledge, they learn how to deal with customers through intensive training on marketing distribution models and even on basic customer care skills and etiquette,” says Patel.
Though MySkills4Afrika looks like a Microsoft’s CSR program for helping Africa grow, it is not about charity, it is a business strategy for Microsoft’s own growth on the continent as well.
”We believe deeply that helping Africa accelerate economic development and create jobs will help Microsoft achieve our company’s mission in Africa. MySkills4Afrika is about developing Africa’s business climate to enable people to compete and reach their full potential, “ concludes Kunle.