Microsoft announces investments in South Africa

Bearing gifts to the value of R4.5 million (US$59,000), Microsoft swept into Durban this month, announcing that it is re-investing in the province, not just with the opening of a branch office, but with the establishment of Africa’s only independent software vendor (ISV) center, which is to be housed at the city’s business incubator hub, SmartXchange.

The software giant also announced that it is committed to helping the city of Durban and SmartXchange to make the locally developed local government software system, LogoSoft, a successful ERP product, and that it is making its software suites available at no cost to SmartXchange management and incubation companies.

The announcements were made at a function held in the Durban City Hall. Heading the Microsoft entourage to Durban was Jean-Philippe Courtois, CEO, Europe, Middle East and Africa. Joining him were Gordon Frazer, MD of Microsoft SA, Danny Naidoo, director: developer & platforms group, and Manoj Bhoola, business group manager: server and tools.

Welcoming the investments, Martin Cele, CEO at SmartXchange, says the ISV center, which is scheduled to go live before year-end, will provide an opportunity for African ISVs to design and build software products using Microsoft technologies under Microsoft guidance. “We were competing against Johannesburg and Cape Town for this facility, but Durban was selected because we have the potential to become the software development capital of SA, and, indeed, the whole continent,” says Cele.

As well as providing training, access to technologies and technical expertise, the facility will also provide an environment for simulation to test software applications. The center will, additionally, be the venue that Microsoft will use to announce new technologies, relieving the need for software vendors to travel to the U.S. or Europe to attend these announcements.

Cele also welcomed Courtois’ announcement that Microsoft will further increase its investment in SmartXchange by way of providing software to each tenant company.

Courtois says: “A key part of our business is to provide a software platform and tools that enable other software companies to build their own applications. Volunteers from the tenant companies have committed to assisting several digital villages in the area in the form of training and experience to further extend the benefits of technology in the surrounding communities.

“SA, and particularly KZN, has the potential of producing high quality software products that could surpass local needs and become a source of export income. Studies have demonstrated the key contribution ISV developers make to sustaining growth and development of the ICT sector and so positively impact the economy. Not only are ISVs a crucial part, they are also key to the development of local skills,” Courtois adds.

On the successful completion of LogoSoft, a financial management system aimed at local government, Microsoft will look to certify the ERP solution as a preferred product on a global basis. Produced locally, LogoSoft is claimed to be a prime example of effective partnerships stimulating the local software economy.

Cele says that SmartXchange will be the official ISV for LogoSoft, and that Microsoft will add its expertise to the software suite in the form of financial and human resources modules, completing its status as a true ERP solution.

Dr. Mike Sutcliffe, eThekwini Municipality city manager, said that the IT business community in Durban recognizes that the sustainability of Durban as a technology hub will depend on its ability to attract investment in the region, further create jobs, increase levels of innovation, and maintain a pool of highly skilled resources in the region.

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