Microsoft and Huawei have jointly launched the 4Afrika Initiative, which aims to bring tens of millions of smart devices to the continent, educate young people, and bring one million African businesses online.

Huawei 4Afrika
The Huawei 4Afrika runs Windows Phone 8 and is based on the W1 which was launched at CES

The first step of this initiative is the introduction of the Huawei 4Afrika, a Windows Phone 8 device bundled with applications developed exclusively for Africa, and which will be targeted at university students, developers and first-time smartphone users

Fernando de Sousa, general manager of the 4Afrika Initiative, said: "The world has recognised the promise of Africa, and Microsoft wants to invest in that promise. We want to empower African youth, entrepreneurs, developers, and business and civic leaders to turn great ideas into a reality that can help their community, their country, the continent and beyond."

The Huawei 4Afrika smartphone is a modified version of the Ascend W1 shown off at CES in Las Vegas last month, which is a Windows Phone 8 device with a 4in, 480 x 800 resolution display, a dual-core 1.2GHz processor and 4GB of storage; the phone will be available in blue, red, black and white.

It may not be the most powerful smartphone on the market, but Huawei claims a standby time of 420 hours - 200 hours more than an iPhone 5 - is possible thanks to sophisticated power management features and which will be key in Africa where access to power supply is limited and sporadic in many areas.

It will initially be available in Angola, Egypt, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Morocco and Nigeria, followed by South Africa later this month, and is the first in a series of 4Afrika devices enabling Africans to connect to the mobile web.

Access

"We believe there has never been a better time to invest in Africa and that access to technology - particularly cloud services and smart devices - can and will serve as a great accelerator for African competitiveness," Jean-Philippe Courtois, president of Microsoft International, said in a statement.

"The launches of Windows 8 and many other new products in the coming months represent a new era for Microsoft, which we believe will redefine the technology industry globally. These additional investments under the 4Afrika banner will help define our company's new era in Africa," Courtois added.

Microsoft estimates that by 2016 the 4Afrika initiative will have helped place tens of millions of smartphones into the hands of young Africans, brought one million small- and medium-sized businesses online, upskilled 100,000 members of the continent's existing workforce and helped an extra 100,000 graduates develop employable skills.

Celebrating the company's first 20 years doing business on the continent, Microsoft's 4Afrika initiative also includes the development of cheap wireless broadband in the Rift Valley in Kenya, and is helping local people in South Africa and Egypt develop Africa-specific applications for Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8.

Africa is seen by many of the big technology companys as a region of huge untapped potential. Intel announced its new value smartphone platform known as Lexington at CES last month which will target users in developing markets, and the chips will power phones running the Android operating system.