Microsoft tags Africa for next major Windows Phone push

Microsoft prepared to advance its Africa strategy by recruiting smartphone makers in China to produce low-cost devices running the U.S. company's Windows Phone software.

The U.S. company, which acquired Nokia's handset business for $7.2 billion (€6.3 billion) in 2014, is preparing to launch sub-$100 smartphones in Africa during 2015 as part of a global launch of low-cost devices, the company's general manager for Africa Initiatives, Fernando de Sousa, told Bloomberg.

De Sousa told the news agency that Africa is one of the world's fastest growing smartphone markets, and that it will soon be the global leader in terms of usage of the devices.

Microsoft's low-cost smartphones form part of its 4Afrika Initiative, a programme the company launched in early 2013 to help connect a million small and medium-sized enterprises in the continent, train 100,000 workers, assist 100,000 recent graduates to find employment, and place millions of smart devices in the hands of African users.

The U.S. company last month said it launched Africa's first commercial mobile broadband service using TV white spaces. Microsoft launched the service in Ghana in conjunction with Spectra Wireless, with the aim of enabling students to purchase low-cost Internet access. The service also offers zero-rate interest loans to help students purchase a web-enabled device from Microsoft, Lenovo, Dell and HP.

News of Microsoft's Africa push comes just over a month after the company launched the Nokia 215, a new entry-level Internet phone priced at $29 that is due to go on sale in Africa, Middle East, Asia and Europe in the current calendar quarter.

Low-cost smartphones are considered essential to improving Africans' access to Internet services. With an estimated 80 per cent of the continent's population still not connected to the Internet and low fixed-line penetration, mobile Internet is regarded as the most likely way the majority of citizens will access online services.

For more:
- see this Bloomberg article
- view Microsoft's TV white space announcement

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