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IBM Puts Its Money Where Its Mouth Is – Africa

We’re not neglectful of Africa at ReadWriteWeb. We’ve believed in it as an area of innovation and growth for the social web and mobile since at least 2008 when we launched a three-part series “Social Media in Africa.” Well, it looks like IBM has finally caught up with us.

Last week the computing giant announced a 10-year partnership with Indian mobile leader Bharti Airtel to upgrade the cellphone network in 16 countries around sub-Saharan Africa.

As the New York Times reported, Samuel J. Palmisano, the CEO of IBM and Sunil Bharti Mittal, the CEO of Bharti, considered the announcement of the partnership important enough to appear personally in Nairobi to make the announcement.

IBM has invested $300 million in data centers, offices and training. The country’s General Manager for Growth Markets, Bruno Di Leo, underscored the emphasis on the region.

“This is a huge step forward for I.B.M. in what we think is the next major emerging growth market — Africa.”

Africa, at 25% annually, has the world’s highest growth rate in mobile technology use. The African mobile market is estimated to be worth between seven and nine billion dollars in the next few years.

Dedicated social media watchers, in and out of Africa, already know the country as a place of innovation. Ushahidi, the crisis management tool, was born in Kenya, made by Kenyans. The Seedcamp incubator had its first African camp in August. Social network Multiply was bought by a South African company.

Will IBM’s increase in investment and development make it easier for Africans to get connected, in more ways than one? Or will the big push by two outside forces relegate native Africans to the sidelines? It would be particularly interesting to hear from our African readers on this.

Africa image by Mick Høy

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