Microsoft has unveiled a partnership with M-Pesa Africa in an initiative aimed at supporting its Capability Development Academy to digitize Micro, Small and Medium SMEs (MSMEs).

The deal will see Microsoft provide access to the Microsoft Community Platform and SME Skilling Programs to develop the capacity of MSMEs based in a number of African markets.

Through the programme, M-Pesa Africa aims to equip MSMEs with needed skills to develop stronger business models, manage their finances and offer exceptional customer service.

M-Pesa is Africa’s leading fintech and payments service and connects more than 60 million customers and more than 900,000 businesses via M-Pesa business solutions in eight countries, processing more than 91 million transactions and over $1 billion in value per day.

MSMEs play a key role in Africa’s inclusive socio-economic growth with such businesses accounting for 40 per cent of GDP, creating 90 per cent of new jobs in emerging economies.

But according to recent research, up to 80 per cent of African SMEs fail within the first five years of being established, despite having the highest entrepreneurship rate in the world.

Some of the top potential hurdles facing SMEs include access to business enablement tools, access to finance and digital skills with Microsoft seeking to close the digital skills gap.

Microsoft, through its Africa Transformation Office, is envisioning to digitally enable 10 million SMEs in Africa through relevant business apps and ready-to-use skilling content.

The programs accessed via M-Pesa business solutions will empower MSMEs to effectively manage their finances, including basic accounting, financial planning and handling cash flow.

It also seeks to improve livelihoods for MSME entrepreneurs and their communities, and hopefully, open opportunities for these small businesses to compete in the global market.

“We are excited to partner with Microsoft to upskill entrepreneurs and provide them with business tools that will enable them to run their businesses better and to grow their businesses,” said M-Pesa Africa Managing Director Sitoyo Lopokoiyit.

He added: “Micro, Small and Medium businesses are the backbone of African economies and therefore empowering them to succeed creates an even larger impact for their communities due to their outsized economic contribution.”

Microsoft says the MSME upskilling program aims to realise the goal of reducing inequalities and empowering vulnerable groups, in line with UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 10.

The significant program will be enabled in several M-Pesa Africa markets, including Kenya, Lesotho, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Tanzania.

“Digitisation can significantly enhance financial inclusion, most particularly for unserved and underserved enterprises such as MSMEs. Creating an enabling environment for these important economically active businesses that helps them thrive and participate actively in the continent’s economies is essential for sustainable and inclusive economic growth,” added Microsoft Africa Transformation Office Managing Director Gerald Maithya.