sPecial rePorT

The real deal on african iPos

www.africanbusinessreview.co.za | Feb 2011

microsofT’s man in africa
AFricA’s top smArtphones exPerT search engine sTraTegies uP and coming african sTarT-uPs the growth oF AFricAn Air trAvel

Cheick Diarra

Business Celebs

Cheick Diarra

microsofT’s man 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 hAmzA

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February 2011

Business Celebs

microsoft’s m

R

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 of meeting one were minimal to say the least. Yet, had I met an astronomer, my personal journey to astronomy may have been different.” Though he may have not quite made it as an astronomer, the young boy did not do too bad. After spending 10 years working for NASA as its first African astrophysicist before joining what can only be called the defining brand of our generation, Microsoft. Dr Diarra, the prefix a result of his PhD in mechanical and aerospace engineering from Howard University, Washington DC, is a man of many achievements and one on whom the continent can rightly take pride. “I am a son of Africa. I had an African childhood and education, and like so many Africans, I have
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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

Business Celebs

microsoft’s m

Africa. Diarra attributes this success to his roots and approach to both business and life: “I am an African entrepreneur, a person who, by nature, embraces initiative and risk and uses available resources in novel ways. “Entrepreneurs are not daunted, we are excited. We see what could be and we say ‘why not?’ We bring people 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 to diarra is heavily involved with bring alive his dream for many African charities and his beloved continent. educational organisations
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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

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