Africa: Google to Invest U.S.$1 Billion in Five Years to Support Digital Transformation in Africa

(file photo).
7 October 2021

Google has announced that it concluded plans to invest a whopping $1 billion to support digital transformation in Africa, over the next five years.

CEO of Google and Alphabet, Sundar Pichai, announced the plan yesterday, during the first Google for Africa event, which held virtually and live streamed simultaneously across African countries, including Nigeria.

The investment, which includes the landing of the subsea cable, Equiano, will enable faster internet speeds and lower connectivity costs, will cover a period of five years, supporting digital transformation in African countries, Nigeria inclusive.

The $1 billion investment also includes low-interest loans to help small businesses and equity investments in African startups.

Since 2017, Google has trained six million young Africans and businesses in digital skills. Google has also supported more than 50 nonprofit organisations across Africa with over $16 million of grants, and enabled 100 million more Africans to access internet services for the first time through Android.

The investment, according to Google, would focus on enabling fast, affordable internet access for more Africans; building helpful products; supporting entrepreneurship and small business; and helping nonprofits to improve lives across Africa.

"Google is building global infrastructure to help bring faster internet to more people and lower connectivity costs. The subsea cable, Equiano, is expected to run through South Africa, Namibia, Nigeria and St Helena and connect the continent with Europe.

Internet access is also hampered by the affordability of smartphones. Android has developed a device locking technology as part of the Android plaorm that will enable partners to offer financed devices," Google said, adding that it has collaborated with Kenya's largest carrier Safaricom to support the launch of the first "Device Financing" plan in Kenya, and will expand the initiative across Africa with partners like Airtel, MKOPA, MTN, Orange, Transsion Holdings and Vodacom, among others.

The partnerships, it stated, will help millions of first-time smartphone users gain access to quality, and affordable Android smartphones.

Google further explained that the government of The Gambia has adopted the initiative in providing addresses for residents and businesses across the capital Banjul and are now scaling to the rest of the country, "Plus codes is expected to expand to South Africa, Kenya and other countries in partnership with governments and non-governmental organisations."

Through a Black Founders Fund, Google said it would invest in Black-led startups in Africa by providing cash awards and hands-on support.

This is in addition to Google's existing support through the Google for Startups Accelerator Africa, which has helped more than 80 African startups with equity-free finance, working space and access to expert advisors over the last three years. Google also announced the launch of an Africa Investment Fund. Through this fund, the company will invest $50 million in startups and provide them with access to Google's employees, network, and technologies to help them build meaningful products for their communities.

Pichai said: "We have made huge strides together over the past decade, but there is more work to do to make the internet accessible, affordable and useful for every African. I am excited to reaffirm our commitment to the continent through an investment of $1 billion over five years to support Africa's digital transformation to cover a range of initiatives from improved connectivity to investment in startups."

On his part, Managing Director for Google in Africa, Nitin Gajria, said: "I am so inspired by the innovative African tech startup scene. In the last year we have seen more investment rounds into tech startups than ever before. I am of the firm belief that no one is better placed to solve Africa's biggest problems than Africa's young developers and startup founders. We look forward to deepening our partnership with, and support for Africa's innovators and entrepreneurs."

Also speaking, the Minister of Small Business Development in South Africa, Stella Tembisa Ndabeni-Abrahams, said: "I am happy to note that Google has been active in supporting Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs), dedicating even more resources to this sector, since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the last 12 months, Google has helped close to 500,000 African businesses get online and reach new customers."

Since 2012, the Google Arts and Culture team has partnered institutions across the continent to preserve and promote their collections, providing a free online platform, which anyone around the world can access.

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