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Tech News & Podcast | Africa

Microsoft Promises $70 Million to Promote AI Development and Jobs in South Africa

Microsoft South Africa has declared a substantial investment in the South African economy, amounting to R1.3 billion ($70 million). As a component of a ten-year contract with the Department of Trade, Industry, and Competition (DTIC), this investment intends to foster the growth of small, micro, and medium-sized companies (SMMEs), generate employment locally, and get the nation ready for the AI revolution.

Increasing Economic Development and AI in South Africa

With this large investment, South Africa’s AI skills should improve dramatically. By 2024, the market is estimated to be worth US$0.90 billion, and by 2030, it is forecast to increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 28.22% to reach US$4.00 billion. The DTIC states that the money will go toward a number of projects, one of which is an enterprise development project valued at R663 million ($34.6 million). This project focuses on the creation of new disruptive technology solutions and technology start-ups run by black South African entrepreneurs.

Funding for Research and Skills Development

A R347 million ($18.9 million) skills development effort will provide young black South Africans with intense training through certification courses and leadership programs, in addition to helping SMMEs. Additionally, several research initiatives will be funded by an R&D effort of R160 million ($8.7 million), which will promote innovation and technical advancement.

In an effort to solve societal issues, boost productivity, and promote economic growth, South Africa is aggressively stepping up its use of artificial intelligence. Building on the founding of the AI Institute of South Africa (AIISA) and the Centre for Artificial Intelligence Research (CAIR) in prior years, the nation presented a draft of its national AI plan in April 2024.

Microsoft’s AI and Skills Development Vision

The managing director of Microsoft South Africa, Kalane Rampai, emphasized the revolutionary potential of AI and pointed out that technology is radically altering how people operate. He underlined how crucial it is to learn AI capabilities in order to stay competitive in the labor market. “We think there’s a huge potential for anyone who are willing to learn more about AI. The greatest talent will be drawn to companies who provide their staff with AI tools and training, according to Rampai.

Rampai also underlined how important SMMEs are to the economy of South Africa. A platform for the SMME sector’s expansion through technology, digital transformation, and market prospects will be made available by the investment. About half of all jobs in South Africa are held by SMMEs, which also account for nearly 40% of the country’s GDP. Many firms, in spite of their significance, struggle with funding and mostly depend on loans or personal resources.

Developing AI for the Defense Industry

AI applications are being investigated by South Africa for the defense industry. The Defense Artificial Intelligence Research Unit (DAIRU) was established in the nation on May 3, 2024, at the Military Academy located in Saldanha, Western Cape. The goal of this military-focused AI hub is to maximize AI’s potential for defense, security, and national development.

Microsoft’s $70 million investment shows a strong commitment to the evolution of AI and South Africa’s economic prosperity. With an emphasis on SMME development, skill development, and research financing, this investment will assist @South Africa in leveraging AI to propel innovation, job creation, and societal advancement. South Africa has the potential to emerge as a leader in the global AI scene with its continued efforts to incorporate AI across multiple industries.

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