Microsoft Corporation has stated its intention to empower 10 million small and medium-sized businesses by 2025.
Lillian Barnard, President of Microsoft Africa, announced this during a press appearance in Lagos to announce a five-year strategic relationship with Flutterwave.
According to Barnard, Microsoft intends to provide crucial tools, infrastructure, and scaling support to SMEs in order to facilitate their growth and create strategic collaboration.
She stated, “Microsoft is committed to fast-tracking economic growth in Africa through the transformative power of technology – a key part of this involves making it possible for SMEs to acquire the digital financial tools and services they need to succeed.
“We believe greater access to technology and innovation holds the key to building thriving local businesses that will create stronger economies to enable a brighter future for all.”
Furthermore, she stated that fintechs are assisting SMEs and the informal sector, which supply the majority of jobs in the country and contribute approximately 40% to the Gross Domestic Product of any economy.
Lack of access to financial services and the inability to interact effectively across local payment methods is a major barrier for both SMEs and startups.
While about 90% of transactions in Africa are still cash-based, up to half of small firms lack access to finance.
The Country Manager of Microsoft Nigeria, Ola Williams, said, “To drive sustainable growth in Nigeria, small businesses need the ability to participate more actively in the local and even global marketplace. This begins with digital financial inclusion.
“If we want to build a more resilient country and ultimately a more prosperous continent, we must begin by giving these businesses the digital financial services they need, not just to survive, but to thrive.”
The payment technology company’s strategic alliance with Microsoft Azure seeks to accelerate payment innovation in Africa and promote the growth of small companies across the continent.
SMEs continue to play an important role in Africa’s development, employing over 90% of the population and encouraging innovation to meet societal concerns.
Despite their critical role, SMEs have considerable problems, such as limited access to financial services and difficulties in conducting seamless transactions utilizing local payment methods.
Cash transactions are common, with 90 percent conducted in cash, and half of small enterprises lack credit. These challenges underscore the need for new solutions to empower and uplift African SMEs.