Microsoft for Start-ups initiative to empower 14 Kenyan social enterprises


Microsoft, through its Microsoft for Start-ups initiative, today announced the launch of its Global Social Entrepreneurship programme at a plenary session of the Sankalp Africa Summit 2020. 

Microsoft’s Global Social Entrepreneurship programme has benefits aimed at elevating start-ups addressing an important social and environmental challenge through their products, services or operations. As a platform for innovation, entrepreneurship and impact investing, the Sankalp Forum was the ideal place for Microsoft, a strategic partner of the forum, to make this important announcement. 

“Solving global social and environmental challenges requires synergy of the right technology, partners, conducive environment and technology. When start-ups work together with investors, enterprises, governments, non-profits and communities, we are able to unlock new potentials,” said Microsoft4Afrika Director Amrote Abdella at the launch of the programme. 

This global initiative is designed to help social enterprise start-ups build and scale their companies to do good globally. Microsoft believes in providing the foundational building blocks to help social entrepreneurs create companies that can achieve worldwide impact. Social enterprises that become part of the Global Social Entrepreneurship programme will receive access to free Microsoft cloud technologies, including up to $120,000 in Azure credits, along with technical support and guidance. 

Microsoft is deeply inspired by the commitment of these social entrepreneurs, who are focusing their passion for positive change on improving human health and the environment, advancing social and economic equity, and much more.

Social impact startups from around the world are welcome to apply. The criteria to qualify for the programme includes a business metric that measures impact on an important social or environmental challenge; an established product or service that will benefit from access to enterprise customers; and a commitment to the ethical and responsible use of AI. Qualified startups will be eligible for grants in the areas of sustainability, accessibility, skills and employability. 

A dedicated programme manager will help Global Social Entrepreneurship start-ups market and sell solutions and connect to large commercial organisations and nongovernmental organisations that are potential customers. Participants focused on sustainability, accessibility, and skills and employability will also be eligible for grants. Furthermore, the social enterprises that join the Global Social Entrepreneurship programme will be part of a worldwide community of like-minded innovators who come together to share ideas, foster connections and celebrate success. 

The programme is available in 140 countries and will actively seek to support underrepresented founders with diverse perspectives and backgrounds. 

Microsoft has been intentional in its development of partnerships in the agri-tech space that have a shared theme of building locally relevant technology solutions that support social good. Through the 4Afrika initiative, Microsoft has collaborated with the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) to co-create technology solutions in Africa. The partnership explores the uses of big data and AI in enabling data-driven, precision farming that increases farm productivity and profitability, and supports AGRA’s digital transformation as it works to improve food security for 30 million farming households across 11 countries by 2021. 

The partnership is demonstrative of Microsoft’s ongoing investment in agri-tech across the continent, and stands alongside investments such as Microsoft4Afrika’s support of the World Bank’s 1 Million Farmers Platform.

As part of the partnership, 4Afrika is supporting 14 Kenyan social entrepreneurs selected to join the platform, who are developing technology solutions that promote access to financial services and markets for farmers. Microsoft has also partnered and supported other social entrepreneurs in agri-tech like Twiga Foods, a mobile-based business-to-business food supply platform that links smallholder farmers in rural Kenya to informal retail vendors in cities, and SunCulture, which has a solar-based system that offers farmers personalised recommendations and solutions through their mobile phones. 

Shujaaz Inc is one of the most innovative socially-oriented communications research and media production companies on the African continent. The company is turning Kenyan youth into field researchers, tapping into unique social trend data. Their youth platform leverages their 3,000+ youth network, empowering them to run research on their behalf. The support from Microsoft4Afrika has enabled Shujaaz to do this on a large scale, providing a quick and easy tool that facilitates easy data collection from across Kenya. 

“Social entrepreneurship has to be the future for a sustainable world: it’s only when we align the interests of business and society that we can all thrive and grow. With the launch of the Global Social Entrepreneurship programme it’s wonderful to see Microsoft once again showing leadership and demonstrating the values we believe in. Shujaaz Inc is proud to be working with Microsoft to build a better future for young people in Africa,” says Rob Burnet, CEO of Shujaaz Inc.

Upepo Technology is a Kenyan technology firm that develops IoT (Internet of Things) solutions for the country’s water sector. The company partners with utilities to deploy smart water metering devices that provide real-time monitoring of water infrastructure, moving towards a more holistic view of water consumption in Kenya, with the ultimate goal of providing access to water for people across the country. 

Upepo’s solution secured the company a Microsoft AI for Earth grant in April 2019, which provides access to cloud and AI tools, as well as opportunities for education and training on AI and investments in innovative, scalable solutions.