Why Tech giants like Google and Microsoft are flocking to Africa

Now approaching 226 million, the number of smartphone connections across Africa has doubled over the last two years, according to a report published by GSMA on Africa’s mobile economy.

This leap coupled with the growing number of technology hubs and companies in major African cities is a boon for tech investors. It’s why Microsoft and Google are not the only international technology companies staking their claims on the continent.

Thanks to one of Google’s many products, TensorFlow, rural farmers on the continent can diagnose diseased plants by taking a photo of it. TensorFlow came with the launch of Google’s artificial intelligence (AI) center in Accra, Ghana’s capital city earlier this year.

The center, one of the multinational tech company’s many investments in Africa, is comprised of researchers and engineers from around the continent building resources to solve various African problems through AI. Just as Google is using technology to create tools that address Africa’s growing needs, Microsoft continues to invest in growing tech talents on the continent.

Microsoft recently launched its Africa Development Centre (ADC) with two initial sites in Nairobi, Kenya and Lagos, Nigeria. More than 100 local engineers and developers will be hired to work in the new Microsoft facilities in both countries across artificial intelligence, machine learning and mixed reality innovation, according to Microsoft. The plan is to grow this pool of workers to 500 by 2023.

“Our desire is to recruit exceptional engineering talent across the continent that will build innovative solutions for global impact,”said Michael Fortin, Microsoft’s corporate vice president in a statement.

Fortin said Microsoft was hoping to create opportunities for engineers to work from their home countries while also being a part of the larger global engineering organization.

Africa tech analyst, Bankole Oluwafemi, believes that the initial focus on Nigeria and Kenya is because both countries have large developer communities.

Kenya and Nigeria in the past decade have earned reputations as technology havens for their major tech startups, funding and mobile access.

And according to a report from Disrupt Africa, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa raised the highest funds for technology startups in Africa last year, emerging as the top investment destinations for early-stage technology firms on the continent.

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