Microsoft and Huawei today unveiled a new Windows Phone designed specifically for Africa, one of the most rapidly-growing technology markets in the world. 

The phone, called the Huawei 4Afrika, is the first in a series of smart devices being custom developed for the continent and released as part of Microsoft’s sweeping new 4Afrika Initiative, which also kicked off today. (Check out this blog post and website for more details.)

Designed specifically as an affordable option for students, small businesses, developers, and first-time smartphone owners, the Huawei 4Afrika with Windows Phone 8 will make its debut later this month in seven countries: Angola, Egypt, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, and South Africa. As you can see from these shots, it’s not only affordable but stylish—available in blue, red, black, and white.

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Under the hood, the new phone is a variant of the Ascend W1, which we blogged about when it launched at last month’s Consumer Electronics Show. It sports a 4-inch 480 x 800 display, dual-core 1.2 GHz Snapdragon processor, front and rear-facing cameras, and 4GB of internal storage—all squeezed into a 10 millimeter-thin case. According to Huawei, the phone delivers a whopping 420 hours of standby time (that’s a tad over two straight weeks, folks) thanks to its built-in power-saving technology.

The phone also comes preloaded with custom apps created by African developers for African consumers and feature a market-specific store within the larger Windows Phone Store for downloading locally-relevant apps and content.

Maybe you’re wondering: Why Africa? As many observers have noted, interest and demand for smartphones and other enabling technologies is ramping up fast there. “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, noted today in a statement. In addition, some analysts predict smartphones and other wireless devices will increasingly serve as the primary way most Africans access the Internet.

By the way, this isn’t the only Windows Phone making inroads in Africa. Windows Phone already has a strong presence in Africa with devices from HTC, Samsung, and Nokia. In fact, another part of this broad 4Afrika initiative is a joint Nokia and Microsoft customer training program in Kenya and Nigeria to help accelerate adoption of Nokia Lumia 510 and 620 phones. More than 90% of phones sold today in those markets are feature phones, so Microsoft and Nokia are teaming up to provide free in-store training for customers to help them get the most from their new Lumias and manage their new data plans.  

If you live in Africa and already own a Windows Phone, let us know what you think!