Startups & Ideas

Microsoft Hosts Groundbreaking AI Fest to Propel African Startup Revolution in 2024

Microsoft is set to host the African Startups AI Fest – a landmark event that promises to be the largest of its kind on the continent. The African Startups AI Fest will take place on June 6, 2024, in Johannesburg, South Africa. It will also provide virtual access to ensure widespread participation across Africa. Announced at GITEX Africa in Marrakesh, Morocco, the event is a strategic initiative of Microsoft’s Africa Transformation Office (ATO). It is designed to empower startup founders and entrepreneurs to leverage artificial intelligence (AI) for enhancing their products and services, ensuring a wider reach both locally and globally.

The festival is set against the backdrop of a challenging economic environment where, despite a dip in funding compared to the boom year of 2022, African tech startups continue to show remarkable resilience and innovation. Microsoft’s commitment through this festival is to bolster these startups by providing access to AI tools, industry-specific expertise, and market connections that could potentially transform their business operations and scalability prospects.

Empowering Startups at the AI Fest

Registration for the African Startups AI Fest is open until June 5, 2024. As the date approaches, the anticipation continues to build for what promises to be a transformative experience for the continent’s bright and ambitious entrepreneurial talent.

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Over 6,000 to 10,000 startups are expected to participate in the AI FEST event, which aims to foster a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship. The event will feature sessions from leading figures in the tech industry, including successful startup founders and executives from Microsoft’s vast network of partners and customers. These sessions will cover a wide range of topics from the practical applications of AI in business processes to strategies for navigating the competitive global marketplace.

Lillian Barnard, Microsoft Africa President, emphasised the significance of the AI Fest Event in her statement, “There is a need to provide startups on the continent with the resources to take their concepts from the drawing board to customers.” She highlighted that AI-enabled tech solutions and advanced digital skills are essential for startups to thrive and act as catalysts for job creation and economic growth in Africa.

The African Startups AI Fest will also provide a platform for startup success stories, such as that of RE Legal Interact and M-KOPA. RE Legal Interact, an Independent Software Vendor, has integrated Microsoft AI into its software, introducing the first AI lawyer in South Africa designed to automate routine legal queries. M-KOPA, on the other hand, uses AI and IoT tools to provide inclusive financial services across East Africa, helping families and entrepreneurs access essential goods and services like solar systems and smartphones on affordable payment plans.

AI Tools and Technology Showcase

In addition to sharing success stories, the festival will introduce attendees to various Microsoft tools and technologies that can be harnessed to drive business growth. These include cloud computing solutions, AI and machine learning platforms, and IoT technologies, all of which are pivotal in today’s digital economy.

To ensure startups have the tools they need to succeed, Microsoft will offer customised support through its Microsoft for Startups Founders Hub. This initiative includes industry-specific webimars designed to help startups scale, pitch coaching sessions to enhance fundraising skills, and investor community sessions that connect entrepreneurs with top investors.

Moreover, the African Startups AI Fest is more than just a conference; it’s a collaborative space designed to connect African startups with global markets. By doing so, Microsoft aims not only to foster local innovation but also to help these startups make a significant mark on the global stage.


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