Microsoft to Empower 10m SMEs by 2025

Microsoft Corporation has announced its commitment to empowering 10 million small and medium enterprises by 2025.

The President of Microsoft Africa, Lillian Barnard, revealed this at a press conference in Lagos while unveiling a 5-year strategic partnership with Flutterwave.

According to Barnard, Microsoft planned to equip SMEs with essential tools, infrastructure, and scaling support, facilitating their growth and fostering 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.”

Bannnard further noted that fintechs were helping SMEs and the informal sector, which created a bulk of employment as they provided seven out of 10 jobs in the country and contributed about 40 per cent to the Gross Domestic Product of any economy.

A key challenge for both SMEs and startups is a lack of access to financial services and the inability to transact seamlessly across local payment methods.

While around 90 percent of transactions in Africa are still cash-based, as many as half of small businesses are without access to credit.

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 strategic partnership between the payment technology company and Microsoft Azure aims to accelerate payment innovation in Africa and support the growth of small businesses across the continent.

SMEs remain pivotal in Africa’s development, employing approximately 90 percent of the population and driving innovation to address societal challenges.

Despite their crucial role, SMEs face significant hurdles, including limited access to financial services and challenges in seamless transactions using local payment methods.

Cash-based transactions are prevalent, with 90 percent conducted in cash, and half of the small businesses lack access to credit. These obstacles highlight the need for innovative solutions to empower and uplift SMEs in Africa.