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French Version

Microsoft dominates region with 'incredible' growth

Buoyant growth in the Middle East IT market is fueling Microsoft's growing presence in the region, where the U.S.-based software giant claims to dominate most segments at double digit growth levels that far outpace the global average.

"We were really able to achieve some real growth strategically," said Ali Faramawy, Microsoft vice president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. "We have a big advantage in the modernization of government, the modernization of education, and growth of small and medium sized business," he told The Daily Star.

Faramawy said Microsoft recorded soaring 40 percent growth in some markets, compared to an 11 percent global average for growth in company revenues. Over the last year, Microsoft has hired some 120 new employees across the region, he added, touting over 13 offices.

"If you look at countries like Qatar and Bahrain, where we used to have a one-man show, you can really see that multiply by 10 now. We have by far the best geographical coverage across the region compared to any company," he said resolutely.

Education is seen as major growth area, with Microsoft and other major American IT companies like Intel, Cisco Systems and Computer Associates working with governments across the region to introduce IT products into classrooms, train teachers and develop electronic curriculums.

"If you look at who ends up a winner, everyone does. You are getting the future workers of tomorrow, leaders ... you're even getting new employees for Microsoft and new customers. It's incredible," Faramawy said.

Pending an agreement with the Education Ministry, Microsoft will train 2,000 teachers in Lebanon over the next 5 years, part of similar education-related programs across the region, including Iraq, where a program was launched in September.

"Opening an office there (in Iraq) is something we would do, but definitely at the right time."

Faramawy praised the skills of the region's workforce, with an emphasis on the "very, very high quality," of Lebanon's software companies. But he said Microsoft would not establish major job-creation facilities in the region, where corporate policy favors partnership agreements with regional companies.

"You see I can come here and say OK I'm going to hire 150 people or 200 people and set up a unit and develop software," he explained. "But the reality is, what goes into Lebanon is the salaries of those people, period. The high end return goes to Microsoft somewhere in the U.S. ... We want to do is truly create value that can bring in multiple hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars to the country and I'm sure this will happen, I can actually sign my name under that because I'm pretty optimistic."

Beirut,12 27 2004
Habib Battah
The Daily Star
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