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Microsoft & G42 partner with Kenya for a US$1bn digital investment, including a green data centre, AI development, and skilling initiatives, advancing East Africa. (Image source: Adobe Stock)

Microsoft Corp. and G42 have unveiled an all-encompassing bundle of digital investments in Kenya, as part of an endeavor with the Republic of Kenya’s Ministry of Information, Communications, and the Digital Economy

In partnership with Microsoft and other stakeholders, G42 will oversee the coordination of an initial investment of US$1bn for the diverse components detailed in the comprehensive package. A primary focus of the Kenyan investment is a cutting-edge green data centre to be constructed by G42 and its associates to operate Microsoft Azure in a fresh East Africa Cloud Region.

The endeavor will encompass four supplementary pillars that will be pursued alongside local partners: native-language AI model development and exploration; an East Africa innovation lab coupled with extensive AI digital skills training; global and local connectivity investments; and cooperation with the Kenyan government to endorse safe and protected cloud services throughout East Africa.

Eco-friendly data center infrastructure and a fresh East Africa cloud zone are part of the agreement. As per the arrangement, G42, alongside local partners, will plan and construct a state-of-the-art data center campus in Olkaria, Kenya, powered entirely by renewable geothermal energy and equipped with state-of-the-art water conservation technology. The data center will operate on and offer access to Microsoft Azure through a new East Africa Cloud Region, which is expected to be operational within 24 months of the signing of the definitive agreements.

This cloud zone will grant customers entry to adaptable, protected, high-speed cloud and AI services to hasten cloud adoption and the digital evolution of enterprises, clients, and associates across Kenya and East Africa.

His Excellency, president, Dr William Samoei Ruto, stated that, “This partnership is bigger than technology itself. It is about coming together of three countries with a common vision of a nation empowered by technology, where every citizen has the opportunity to thrive in the global digital landscape. It’s about building a future where Kenya flourishes as a digital leader.”

The president emphasised, “In the spirit of mutual growth and shared prosperity, this LOI is a stepping stone toward a brighter, more connected and digitally empowered future for the USA, Kenya and the UAE. It embodies our collective aspiration to bridge the digital divide, accelerate technological innovation, and pave the way for a thriving digital economy that benefits the entire African continent and beyond.”

Peng Xiao, group chief executive officer of G42, said, “In partnership with Microsoft, we are excited to work with the Kenyan government to usher in a transformative era for the digital ecosystem in Kenya and the region. By establishing a green data center and developing AI tailored to the local culture, G42 is committed to fostering sustainable technological growth. This initiative will empower the Kenyan government and communities with robust, secure cloud services and AI capabilities, providing the foundation for a thriving digital economy across the region.”

Development of Swahili/English AI models and launch of AI societal services

To support national economic growth and development and support Kenya’s unique cultural and linguistic needs, G42 has begun work through its data infrastructure in the United States to train an open-source large language AI model in Swahili and English. To build on this and help accelerate advanced research in Kenya, Microsoft and G42 will increase their combined collaboration and support for local universities, through the Microsoft Africa Research Institute, the Microsoft AI for Good Lab, the Mohammed Bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence in Abu Dhabi, and select universities from Kenya and East Africa.

Microsoft’s AI for Good Lab in Nairobi will use AI technology to work with nonprofit organisations and other partners to help address economic and societal priorities across East Africa. This will include work to enhance food security by using advanced AI techniques to make site-specific fertiliser recommendations that increase agricultural productivity while minimising environmental impacts. It will also include support for The Nature Conservancy (TNC), using AI high-resolution satellite data to monitor and reduce water risks for downstream wildlife and communities in northern Kenya.

In addition, collaborating with the Kenya Red Cross Society, Kenya Space Agency and National Disaster Management Unit, the AI for Good Lab will work to improve climate resilience by applying AI models to high-resolution satellite data for both disaster preparedness and disaster response. And in collaboration with the Smithsonian and Kenya Wildlife Trust, the Lab will use high-resolution satellite imagery and AI to monitor wildlife populations and track livestock expansion near protected areas in East Africa.

East Africa Innovation Lab and skilling support

Microsoft and G42 will launch and operate an East African Innovation Lab in Nairobi to help Kenyan and other East African startups, entrepreneurs, companies and organisations develop and implement cloud and AI services. The East Africa Innovation Lab will provide design sessions and rapid prototyping using Microsoft tools and technology, with skilling and mentorship support from Microsoft developers who work in the company’s Africa Development Center, which has 500 employees in Nairobi.

To help accelerate digital adoption, Microsoft and G42 will collaborate with a wide array of local partners to provide a range of digital and AI skills across Kenyan society and create a future-ready workforce. This will include offering digital and AI skilling programs to all government employees, a cybersecurity skilling program for more than 2,000 people per year, and a business skilling program for young entrepreneurs aged 18 to 24. The two companies will expand on ongoing relationships and work with the Kenya Private Sector Alliance, Stanbic Kenya Foundation, MPESA Foundation, UNDP Kenya, Young African Leaders Initiative, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, and the United States International University-Africa.

Internet connectivity

Kenya’s Ministry of Information, Communications and the Digital Economy will continue to expand work with Microsoft and G42 to broaden internet connectivity. G42 and its UAE ecosystem partners will leverage their resources to support Kenya’s development of international and domestic marine and terrestrial fiber cable infrastructure.

Microsoft will continue to expand its work to bring last-mile wireless internet access to 20 million people in Kenya and 50 million people across East Africa by the end of 2025. This will build on the company’s partnerships with Mawingu Networks, Liquid, CSquared and other local partners in Kenya. It will also include work with M-KOPA, one of the largest providers of solar home systems globally. As part of a fintech financing platform, M-KOPA has pioneered a pay-as-you-go model for smartphones ownership, with 2 million devices sold to date across the region.

Digital safety, privacy and security

Microsoft and G42 will work with the government of Kenya and will design and operate the new East Africa cloud region as part of a “trusted data zone” based on global standards to protect digital safety, privacy and security. With technical assistance and support from G42 and Microsoft, Kenya will establish the new data center as part of a “trusted data zone” under which data from other countries may be governed by their local laws, even while stored and resident in Kenya.
Kenya will utilize the new data center and cloud services for governmental and citizen services, and it will provide government support by adopting a “cloud-first” policy like those enacted in other countries to permit and encourage the government, its agencies, state-owned enterprises and other local entities to move their data and computing services to the cloud.

The parties will also work together to pursue the steps needed to ensure Kenya has sufficient contractual and technical assurances to support trusted digital and sovereign cloud services from the UAE, to facilitate rapid digital transformation even before the completed construction of the G42-Microsoft services in Kenya itself.

Microsoft will provide cybersecurity assistance and support to its customers in Kenya and across East Africa, including through the Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center (MSTIC) and the Microsoft Threat Analysis Center (MTAC).

Microsoft creates platforms and tools powered by AI to deliver innovative solutions that meet the evolving needs of our customers. The technology company is committed to making AI available broadly and doing so responsibly, with a mission to empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more

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