Microsoft has expanded its Microsoft Ventures partnership programme into Africa, and has selected Nairobi innovation centre 88mph as its first African accelerator partner.

Microsoft Ventures was introduced in June as a coordinated global effort to offer tools, resources, expertise and routes to market for start-ups through partnerships with accelerators around the world.

The company says 88mph was chosen for its proven model of helping launch and secure funding for innovative African start-ups. Together, Microsoft and 88mph will work to provide start-ups with mentorship, technology guidance, seed funding, joint selling opportunities and more.

Microsoft Ventures takes a holistic approach to helping start-ups get off the ground through a community evangelism programme including Microsoft BizSpark, an accelerator program and a seed fund that works with start-ups worldwide. The expansion into Africa was conducted as part of the Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative and will therefore prioritise start-ups in key sectors including agriculture, education and healthcare.

“Through the 4Afrika Initiative, we are deeply committed to fostering African innovation and to fuelling Africa’s economic growth and competitiveness, and we are very proud to see Microsoft Ventures extend its reach into the African continent,” says Amrote Abdella, director, 4Afrika Venture Capital and Start-up Programmes.

“We strongly believe that with the right support, African start-ups hold tremendous potential to impact both their local economies and the world’s perception of African-led innovation and entrepreneurship.”

Start-ups will be selected based on the globally established criteria of Microsoft Ventures: applying companies must have a full-time founding team; a bold vision for tackling a real problem; technologically driven solutions; and less than $1-million raised. In Africa, Microsoft is also looking for solutions that can scale across and even outside the African continent.

“Microsoft is a company that deeply understands the value of the ecosystem, and we believe that by working together, 88mph and Microsoft can offer a world-class launch pad to African start-ups looking to achieve true scale,” says Nikolai Barnwell, Nairobi director, 88mph. “We share a deep commitment to the African start-up community and look forward to showcasing more and more African innovators on the world stage.”