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The Huawei-made Windows 8 Phone made exclusively for the African market.

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has certainly spent lots of time finding ways to improve life in Africa, and now Microsoft is out to do the same with a new venture.

The Redmond software giant debuted its new 4Afrika Initiative as part of an effort to improve Africa’s global competitiveness. One of the project’s first steps is a Huawei-made Windows 8 Phone made exclusively for the African market that comes preloaded with select applications designed for Africa.

The phone, a customized version of the Ascend W1, will initially be available in Angola, Egypt, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria and South Africa later this month. The phone is the first in a series of devices designed for the initiative and is targeted at university students, developers and first-time smartphone users. Pricing has yet to be announced.

Plans for the 4Afrika Initiative are robust. Microsoft is also working with the Kenyan government and Indigo Telecom to provide low-cost wireless internet via solar-powered base stations using TV white space technology.

By 2016, Microsoft wants to provide “tens of millions of smart devices” to African youth, educate thousands within Africa’s workforce, give recent graduates employability skills and put 1 million African small and medium-sized businesses online.

“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.

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Previously on GeekWire: Microsoft’s disaster response app HelpBridge alerts family and friends during crisis

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