Photograph — Microsoft

Microsoft opened the Nigeria site of its Africa Development Centre last week Friday, a herald for the direction of new tech innovations in Nigeria. The Africa Development Centre (ADC) is Microsoft’s 7th development centre globally and would be in 2 locations-Nairobi, Kenya, and Lagos, Nigeria. At the opening of the Lagos centre, Microsoft affirmed that it would be recruiting Nigerian engineering talents for them to develop local solutions with global adaptability for local problems.

“The ADC will be unlike any other existing investment on the continent. It will help us better listen to our customers, develop locally and scale for global impact,” says Phil Spencer, executive sponsor of the ADC and executive vice president at Microsoft. “Beyond that, it’s an opportunity to engage more with local partners, academia, governments, and developers – driving impact and innovation in sectors important to Africa.”

This ADC will give Nigerian tech talents a unique opportunity and training on the latest cutting-edge technology including artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and mixed reality. The tech company also intends to hire 100 engineers by the end of 2019, and 500 at the end of 3 years across the two sites in Nairobi and Lagos, while spending $100 million. The sectors where Nigerian engineers will be developing solutions include FinTech, AgriTech, and OffGrid Energy. The question is where would these tech talents come from?

For many Nigerian undergraduates, and the country’s education sector as a whole, Microsoft’s investment represents a huge paradigm shift for their curriculum. Many analysts and commentators have asked if Nigerian universities are preparing students for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. While the general consensus has mostly been ‘no’, the arrival of Microsoft’s ADC switches things up a bit. As the saying goes, “if the mountain will not come to Muhammad, then Muhammed must go to the mountain,” Microsoft’s decision to take the knowledge to Nigerian universities will be of great help.

The visit of Microsoft executives to some of Nigeria’s private and public universities for partnerships will be a boon for the production of top tech talent from Nigeria’s Universities. Under the partnership, Nigerian universities will create a new modern intelligent edge and cloud curriculum, with which they would teach young Nigerian tech students, thereby preparing them for the technological apocalypse. Through the partnership, graduates from top Nigerian engineering universities will have access to the ADC to build relevant and meaningful careers in data science, AI, mixed reality, application development and more.

According to Professor Kayode Alese of the Federal University of Technology Akure (FUTA) in Southwest Nigeria, the partnership excites him as a purveyor of knowledge. “For more than 20 years I have taught computer science to enthusiastic African students, but still Africa has been referred to as the last technology frontier. The fact Microsoft has taken the giant step of setting up its first development centre in Nigeria is a testament to the huge talent base that exists in our academic institutions. It is a great time to be a Nigerian.” he said.

Though the partnership implies that there might be a direct pipeline of tech talent from Nigerian universities to the ADC, it also means that there will be a large pool of talents to choose from. That is good news for Nigeria’s tech sector.

Microsoft Cognition and Microsoft Windows teams will kick-start the ADC efforts, focusing on AI-enabled cloud services, mixed reality experiences and rich applications that power the intelligent edge without disruption. The ADC is the latest in Microsoft’s ongoing investments in Africa, enabling digital transformation, bridging gaps in infrastructure, connectivity, and capability while creating a sustained societal impact on the continent.

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