Microsoft Announces New Partnerships to Drive Economic Growth, Help Build Competitive Africa

OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso — June 7, 2007 — Microsoft Corp. today announced two important new partnerships to help bring social and economic opportunities to people in Africa through the benefits of technology. The agreements were signed at the first subregional Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) Best Practices Forum for West and Central Africa, an event created as part of a collaboration among Microsoft, Burkina Faso, the African Development Bank and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa to discuss ways to improve using information and communication technology for economic and social development across Africa.

“The world has entered an era in which access to the sources of information and knowledge has become a decisive factor in competitiveness and economic growth,” said His Excellency Blaise Compaoré, the president of Burkina Faso. “In the face of the digital divide that threatens to increase the marginalization of developing countries, we must step up the introduction of electronic communication infrastructures to seize the opportunities offered by new technologies. This forum is an occasion for African governments, their advisory institutions and ICT experts to share their experiences so that we can build an inclusive information society to serve the sustainable development of our countries.”

The agreements announced at the forum include the extension of Microsoft’s work with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) to develop an environmentally responsible and localized computer refurbishment program that would benefit small and midsize businesses in Africa, and the signing of a strategic partnership agreement with Burkina Faso to provide ICT training for civil servants in Burkina Faso, as well as support for broader online government initiatives.

“Technology in all its forms has tremendous potential to connect communities and facilitate healthy, sustainable economic growth,” said Dr. Cheick Diarra, Africa chairman for Microsoft. “The partnerships and progress made at this ICT Best Practices Forum are helping the expansion of the African IT sectors and ultimately increasing technological competitiveness for Africa. At Microsoft we have made a commitment through Unlimited Potential to work closely with governments to help local economies develop and compete in the global marketplace and provide technology that is relevant, accessible and affordable.”

Microsoft® Unlimited Potential is the company’s long-term commitment to use technology, training and partnerships to transform education, foster local innovation, and facilitate jobs and opportunities to sustain a continuous cycle of social and economic growth for the estimated 5 billion people who are not yet realizing the benefits of technology.

Computer Refurbishment Program Promotes Job Growth, Protects the Environment

Microsoft and UNIDO have been working together over the past year to promote innovative uses of ICTs that support entrepreneurship and help promote investment and create business opportunities for small and midsize businesses (SMBs) in Africa. At the forum, Microsoft and UNIDO announced they will expand their strategic partnership to create a sustainable and environmentally responsible local computer-refurbishment program for emerging markets. The program will develop a business model for refurbishment centers in Africa and will pilot the first computer-refurbishment center in Uganda. The program will help create local jobs, increase development of ICT skills, and greatly improve the availability of technology for people running SMBs in Uganda. To help ensure the proper disposal of computers once their usefulness has been exhausted, Microsoft and UNIDO will promote the creation of a regional electronic-waste recycling facility for East Africa. Ultimately, the goal is for this to result in a pan-Africa best practice.

“This is the third collaborative program in less than a year under our partnership with Microsoft and, like the others, it is designed to enable new avenues of economic and social empowerment through access to innovative technology,” said Dr. Kandeh Yumkella, director general of UNIDO. “By providing computers, software and training to entrepreneurs, we aim to foster jobs and opportunities in small and midsize enterprises in rural Africa. We are committed to developing a model for refurbishment that is sustainable, both economically and environmentally.”

Alliance Brings Investments in Education and Skills Training

Under the strategic partnership agreement signed with Burkina Faso, Microsoft will invest in ICT training for civil servants in Burkina Faso, as well as support broader online government initiatives to strengthen Burkina Faso’s knowledge-driven economy and improve the use of ICT in the public administration, education and business community sectors in Burkina Faso.

This approach to economic development through the partnership of public and private organizations is reflected in the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals, agreed to by countries and leading development institutions around the world to promote a comprehensive and coordinated approach to tackling many problems in developing countries. Microsoft supports these goals by focusing investment and resources in Africa and by fostering public-private partnerships that develop ICT infrastructures and grow local industries.

About the ICT Best Practices Forum

The ICT Best Practices Forum in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, brings together African governments and organizations from different regions in Africa to demonstrate practical examples of successful solutions and how ICT can enable Africa to accelerate the penetration and application of technology on the continent and increase its competitiveness in global markets. Three subregional forums will be held over the course of a year: one in East Africa, one in Southern Africa, and one in West and Central Africa. This event in Burkina Faso is the first for West and Central Africa.

About Unlimited Potential

Microsoft Unlimited Potential expands and accelerates Microsoft’s commitment to facilitate sustained social and economic opportunity for the more than 5 billion people living throughout the world who do not today benefit from technology. This requires new products that meet the needs of underserved communities; creative, new business approaches that make technology more relevant, accessible and affordable; and close collaboration between local governments, educational institutions and community organizations.

More information on Unlimited Potential and Microsoft’s efforts in emerging segments is available at

About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.

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