South Africa says “Yebo” to Bill Gates

Johannesburg 6th, March, 1997 — Microsoft Chairman and CEO Bill Gates arrived in Johannesburg, South Africa today, for the start of a two day visit, where he will meet with Microsofts African customers and business partners. He is in the country for his first official visit to Africa en route from New Delhi, India, and his plans will include a meeting with Deputy President, Thabo Mbeki and a visit to Soweto.

Gates has stressed that most of his time will be spent meeting with the people who have contributed to Microsofts success in Africa. Meetings have been set up with key people in the IT industry from the distributors to the retailers, he is also scheduled to give a closed presentation on his vision of technology in the future to key business partners. Gates trip to Soweto will take place on Friday where he will open a community centre in Chiawelo. Immediately after, he will attend a private meeting with Deputy President Thabo Mbeki.

In a press conference held at Gallagher Estates in Johannesburg this morning, Gates, once again reiterated Microsofts commitment to Africa in front of a packed room of South African and international media. He described South Africa as a dynamic country spearheading the rest of Africas growth into a tiger economy similar to the Far East.

“Microsoft has always taken this region very seriously and we view South Africa not just as a launchpad into the rest of Africa but as one of the most advanced countries in its use of technology,” said Gates. “Microsoft has already been investing heavily in the region for many years. We have recently opened offices in Kenya and Ivory Coast and are planning another ten within the next three years.”

“Africa is one of the most exciting continents we are working in at the moment, and despite its complexities, we see it as one of the fastest growing regions that Microsoft is currently operating in.” He continued, “Africa is doing an amazing job catching up on technology. Weve already seen how the Internet has taken off and is helping business compete on an international level. At Microsoft, we believe the Internet is the single most important tool that will open Africa up to the rest of the world. It is the future of communication worldwide and Africa is not as far behind as some people believe.”

“We launched Windows 95 here in 1995 and today one in three PCs are using this operating system, but this success is not just limited to South Africa. Throughout the rest of the region, there is a real willingness to accept new technologies. Despite the restrictions of underdeveloped infrastructures, we have seen how businesses are adapting to ensure they are not being left behind. We have also seen how technology is being used as a tool for economic empowerment, through school and community development programmes. Building skills is a crucial part of the work we have to do here and it forms a key part of Microsofts strategy in Africa.”

Rob Katz, Microsoft general manager for South Africa was also there to welcome Bill Gates to South Africa. He said, “This is a very exciting time for South Africa and Bill Gates presence here reflects the importance this country and the rest of Africa is playing in the growth of technology. Africa is changing rapidly and for the better. We have seen the way industry and business is increasingly relying on technology. The infrastructures are being improved to sustain these developments and Microsoft is in a position to drive this forward from South Africa.”

Gates presence in South Africa has generated a lot of excitement both inside and outside the country. Zimbabwe, Namibia and Botwsana have all set up live satellite links to transmit Gates vision of technology presentation to their business communities. Like South Africa, the rest of Africa seems to have opened their arms to Gates style of technology evangelism, which looks set to put Africa on the technology map.

Founded in 1975, Microsoft is the worldwide leader in software for personal computers. The company offers a wide range of products and services for business and personal use, each designed with the mission of making it easier and more enjoyable for people to take advantage of the full power of personal computing every day.

Microsoft South Africa’s web site is http://www.microsoft.com/southafrica/default.asp .

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