African Business Review


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African Business Review

  1. 1. sPecial The real deal rePorT on african | Feb 2011 Cheick Diarra microsofT’s man in africa AFricA’s uP and top coming smArtphones african sTarT-uPs exPerT search the growth engine oF AFricAn sTraTegies Air trAvel
  2. 2. Business CelebsCheick DiarramicrosofT’sman in africa hIS PRoFESSIoNAl ANd PERSoNAl joURNEy hAS tAKEN hIm ACRoSS thE gloBE ANd INto AN ExPloRAtIoN oF oUtER SPACE. Now, ChEICK dIARRA hEAdS mICRoSoFt’S AFRICA oPERAtIoNS whERE hE woRKS to ImPRovE ACCESS to tEChNology ACRoSS thE CoNtINENt by isAAc hAmzAvisit us online at February 2011
  3. 3. Business Celebs microsoft’s mR ecAlling his eArly DAys, cheick Diarra says: “When I was a young boy, growing up in Mali, fascinated by the stars, I had never met an astronomer... What’s more, the chances ofmeeting one were minimal to say the least. Yet, had Imet an astronomer, my personal journey to astronomymay have been different.” Though he may have not quite made it as anastronomer, the young boy did not do too bad.After spending 10 years working for NASA as itsfirst African astrophysicist before joining what canonly be called the defining brand of our generation,Microsoft. Dr Diarra, the prefix a result of his PhD inmechanical and aerospace engineering from HowardUniversity, Washington DC, is a man of manyachievements and one on whom the continent canrightly take pride. “I am a son of Africa. I had an African childhoodand education, and like so many Africans, I havevisit us online at
  4. 4. man in africa page 37 At 2006 microsoft leaders Forum, diarra (centre) with Bill gates and Bill Clinton been a farmer, battling the rains and the droughts. I am also a scientist, one lucky enough to have worked with some of the greatest minds in the world in my 14 years at NASA.” As a interplanetary navigator, Diarra has piloted five NASA missions to Venus, Jupiter, the poles of the Sun and Mars. This was followed by the directorship of NASA’s ‘Mars Exploration Program Education and Public Outreach’. In 2006, he took over the challenge of Microsoft February 2011
  5. 5. Business Celebs microsoft’s mAfrica. Diarra attributes this success to his roots andapproach to both business and life: “I am an Africanentrepreneur, a person who, by nature, embracesinitiative and risk and uses available resources innovel ways. “Entrepreneurs are not daunted, we are excited.We see what could be and we say ‘why not?’ We bringpeople together with the power of ideas, an action plan, and a lot of ‘can do’ spirit. Some of us work in business, some of us in the community, some in even broader circles.” Diarra believes his new role with Microsoft places him in a perfect position from which todiarra is heavily involved withmany African charities and bring alive his dream foreducational organisations his beloved continent.visit us online at
  6. 6. man in africa page 39 diarra with students in Africa “My vision for my continent is to see Africa go well beyond basic IT access, to become a thriving, competitive, technology and knowledge-based continent in my lifetime,” he says. Diarra back many charities and educational organisations such as the Pathfinder Foundation that supports female students achieve scientific education. “If we invest in the women of Africa and in basic literacy programmes for them, this will have an exponential effect in terms of broader literacy and education,” he says. afbr February 2011