Microsoft, G42 unveil $1bn digital investment initiative in Kenya

By Innocent Raphael

Microsoft Corporation and G42 have unveiled a substantial digital investment initiative in Kenya, collaborating with the Republic of Kenya’s Ministry of Information, Communications and the Digital Economy.

According to information published on the Microsoft website on Wednesday, the partnership will include an initial $1 billion investment to enhance Kenya’s digital infrastructure and capabilities.

Stating that central to the investment is the construction of a cutting-edge green data center in Olkaria, Kenya, the source revealed that the facility, developed by G42 and its partners, will host Microsoft Azure services, establishing a new East Africa Cloud Region operational within 24 months.

It added that the entire structure will be powered entirely by renewable geothermal energy.

The initiative encompasses several key pillars aimed at boosting local digital innovation and connectivity:

  1. AI Model Development: Focus on creating AI models in local languages.
  2. Innovation Lab: Establishment of an East Africa Innovation Lab for AI skills training.
  3. Connectivity Investments: Enhancement of both international and local digital infrastructure.
  4. Secure Cloud Services: Collaboration with the Kenyan government to ensure safe and secure cloud services.

A letter of intent formalizing this partnership will be signed during Kenyan President William Ruto’s state visit to the United States, marking a significant diplomatic and economic collaboration among Kenya, the USA, and the UAE.

Speaking on the deal, President Ruto emphasized the transformative nature of this partnership, highlighting its potential to position Kenya as a digital leader.

“This partnership is about empowering our nation through technology, fostering a future where every citizen thrives in the global digital landscape,” he stated.

Also. Brad Smith, Vice Chair and President of Microsoft, remarked, “This represents the largest and broadest digital investment in Kenya’s history, reflecting our confidence in the country and the future of East Africa.”

Expressing excitement about the collaboration, Peng Xiao, CEO of G42, said, “This initiative will empower Kenya and its communities with robust, secure cloud services and AI capabilities, laying the foundation for a thriving digital economy.”

To address Kenya’s unique cultural and linguistic needs, G42 is working on developing AI models in Swahili and English.

This effort includes collaboration with local universities and research institutes to drive advanced research and practical AI applications.

The AI for Good Lab in Nairobi will leverage AI to tackle economic and societal challenges, such as enhancing food security and climate resilience.

The lab will collaborate with organizations like The Nature Conservancy and the Kenya Red Cross Society to deploy AI solutions for environmental and disaster management.

Importantly too, the East Africa Innovation Lab in Nairobi will support local startups and businesses in developing cloud and AI services. Microsoft and G42 will offer extensive digital and AI skills training to foster a future-ready workforce, including programs for government employees, young entrepreneurs, and cybersecurity professionals.

The initiative also aims to expand internet connectivity, with Microsoft and G42 working to extend wireless internet access to 20 million people in Kenya and 50 million across East Africa by 2025.

In terms of digital safety, Microsoft and G42 will help Kenya establish a “trusted data zone” to protect digital privacy and security. This will facilitate the country’s digital transformation by ensuring that data governance aligns with local laws.

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