Will a low-cost Windows Phone catch on in Africa?

Microsoft hopes to penetrate one of the world's fastest growing smartphone markets with this new initiative.

The global smartphone market is dominated by Android and Apple iOS devices. In 2012, the operating systems represented about 88 percent of global smartphone market share. Everyone else, including Windows Phone, was at about 12 percent. But can a new push by Microsoft to focus on one of the world's fastest growing smartphone markets close that gap?

Microsoft announced that it is teaming up with Chinese telecomm giant Huawei to release a new Windows Phone 8 that's marketed directly to Africans.

"Smartphones in Africa still represent a very small percentage – 10 percent – of total phones across the continent," Microsoft said on its website. "As a first critical step toward increasing the adoption of smart devices, Microsoft and Huawei are introducing the Huawei 4Afrika – a full functionality Windows Phone 8 which will come pre-loaded with select applications designed by Africans, for Africa."

The phone will cost $150, according to The New York Times, and will initially be available in Angola, Egypt, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria and South Africa and targets university students, developers, and first-time smartphone users. Microsoft says the phone is just the first part in a series of "4Afrika" devices.

But the "4Afrika" brand goes beyond just Africa-focused devices. It's part of a larger initiative to, yes, bring "tens of millions of smart devices" to the continent, but it also has goals of getting 1 million African small businesses online, providing additional training for 100,000 workers, and helping 100,000 recent graduates develop "employability skills." Microsoft also plans to bring solar-powered wireless broadband to rural Kenya.

“The 4Afrika Initiative is built on the dual beliefs that technology can accelerate growth for Africa, and Africa can also accelerate technology for the world,” said Fernando de Sousa, general manager of the 4Afrika Initiative in a press release.

Africa is one of the world's fastest growth smartphone markets. According to the GSM Association, smartphone sales in Africa will grow 40 percent each year until 2017.

Photo: Microsoft

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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