What the leadership changes at Microsoft Africa means

Microsoft has appointed Lillian Barnard to lead its African operations as part of its efforts to accelerate digital transformation on the continent.

What the leadership changes at Microsoft Africa means
Lillian Barnard, new President for Microsoft Africa.

On Tuesday, Microsoft appointed Lillian Barnard to lead its African operations as part of its efforts to accelerate digital transformation on the continent.

"Microsoft is fully committed to Africa’s digital future, creating opportunities, empowering individuals and businesses, and driving job growth that will benefit the entire region," Samer Abu-Ltaif, Microsoft Corporate VP & President Central & Eastern Europe, Middle East & Africa, said in a statement. Until now, Abu-Ltaif have been acting as the President of the region.

Prior to the appointment, Barnard has been the managing director of Microsoft in South Africa since 2019. She has worked in the IT industry for more than 25 years with stints at IBM and Vodacom.

In South Africa, she will be replaced by Kalane Rampai. "Both Lillian’s and Kalane’s deep expertise in the ICT industry and proven success in delivering transformative solutions make them the ideal candidates to help us achieve our mission of creating a more connected, innovative, and prosperous Africa. With Lillian and Kalane at the helm of our regional and local operations, respectively, we are confident that Microsoft will continue to play a pivotal role in Africa’s economic growth and success," Abu-Ltaif added.

Microsoft describes these appointments as an important milestone in Microsoft’s ongoing effort to drive impact in Africa at scale.

The big tech was the first hyperscale cloud provider to launch an enterprise-grade data centre region on the continent and continues to invest in a robust technology ecosystem to promote economic growth.

According to an IDC study, Microsoft, its partners, and cloud-using customers will together generate around $45.4 billion in new revenues through cloud services by 2026—creating in the region of over 170,000 direct and indirect jobs. The study also estimated that Microsoft and its partner ecosystem will spend about $3.7 billion in Africa for services and products over the next three years, supporting local business.

During the past three decades, Microsoft has invested heavily in skilling and capacity-building to catapult African digital economies into the future. More than four million young people across Africa have been upskilled over the last five years through various skilling and employability programmes, with a further commitment from Microsoft to train and certify at least one million women across Africa by June 2025.

In 2019, the company opened its first Africa Development Centre (ADC) in Kenya and Nigeria to nurture world-class African tech talent by providing a platform for engineers to create solutions for local and global impact.

In March, Microsoft ADC Kenya reportedly laid off an undisclosed number of its team due to macroeconomic conditions and changing customer priorities. 

More recently, Microsoft has embarked on a five-year plan in Africa to build digital assets and capabilities in 10 million small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), support 10,000 start-ups with the capacity needed to scale, provide digital skills to 30 million Africans, and create essential infrastructure projects to build a truly connected continent.

“As African organisations of all sizes, and across every sector, pivot and adapt to changing business and customer needs, they are looking for partners that can accelerate their agility, flexibility and competitiveness, while also cutting costs and driving efficiencies. I am deeply passionate about unlocking the potential for growth using technology to deliver real impact for businesses, communities and economies across the continent, Barnard says.

On his part, Rampai said that "It’s an exciting time to step into this role, and I look forward to advancing the competitiveness of customers and businesses of all sizes and across industries in South Africa and the broader continent, enabling them to benefit from our strong partner ecosystem and best practices in ongoing digital transformation."

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