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Nairobi, Kenya. (BigStock Image)

Microsoft will spend more than $100 million over the next five years to open its first development center in Africa and hire 500 people within four years.

The Redmond, Wash.-based tech giant announced Monday that it plans to open initial offices in Nairobi, Kenya, and Lagos, Nigeria, hiring 100 total employees by the end of 2019. It will recruit engineers working on technologies such as AI, machine learning, and mixed reality.

Microsoft is also partnering with local universities to create a modern intelligent edge and cloud curriculum unique to Africa, with access to the Africa Development Centre provided to graduates.

“The ADC will be unlike any other existing investment on the continent,” Phil Spencer, executive vice president at Microsoft and executive sponsor of the ADC, said in a statement. “It will help us better listen to our customers, develop locally and scale for global impact. Beyond that, it’s an opportunity to engage further with partners, academia, governments and developers – driving impact in sectors important to the continent, such as FinTech, AgriTech and OffGrid energy.”

Microsoft opened its first office in Africa nearly three decades ago. It also runs a program called Microsoft 4Afrika, which launched in 2013 and is “Microsoft’s business and market development engine on the continent.”

Microsoft became the first of the major cloud providers to provide local service to Africa when it brought its South African data centers online in March. The company said it expects demand for cloud computing services in Africa to triple over the next few years, and local cloud availability could spur a startup boom given the experimental possibilities afforded by cloud computing services.

Amazon Web Services announced plans last October to bring a South African data center online in 2020.

There were 442 tech hubs in Africa, up 50 percent from 2016, according to the Global System for Mobile Communications. Africa accounts for more than half the total number of mobile financial services users worldwide and its smartphone connections are expected to double from 2015 to 2022, according to a recent Harvard Business Review story titled “The Rapid Growth of Digital Business in Africa.”

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