Chief Excusive Officer of Google and Alphabet, Sundar Pichai, on Wednesday announced a plan to invest one billion dollars over five years to support digital transformation in Africa.
Pichair made the announcement at Google’s first ever Google for Africa event, held virtually and livestreamed.
He said that the investment would include the landing of the subsea cable Equiano which would enable faster internet speeds and lower connectivity costs.
He said that it also includes low-interest loans to help small businesses and equity investments in African startups.
According to him, since 2017, Google has trained 6 million young Africans out of 10 million plan and also trained small businesses in digital skills.
“Google has also supported more than 50 non-profits across Africa with over 16 million dollars of grants, and enabled 100 million more Africans to access internet services for the first time through Android.
“Google today announced a plan to invest 1 billion dollars over five years to support Africa’s digital transformation.
“The investment focuses 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,’’ he said.
Pinchair said that Google was building global infrastructure to help bring faster internet to more people and lower connectivity costs.
According to him, the subsea cable Equiano will run through South Africa, Namibia, Nigeria and St Helena and connect the continent with Europe.
He said that internet access was also hampered by the affordability of smartphones which Android has developed a device locking technology as part of the Android platform that will enable partners to offer financed devices.
According to him, Google has collaborated with Kenya’s largest carrier Safaricom to support the launch of the first “Device Financing” plan in Kenya.
He said that it would expand this initiative across Africa with partners like Airtel, MKOPA, MTN, Orange, Transsion Holdings and Vodacom, among others.
Pichair said that these partnerships would help millions of first-time smartphone users gain access to quality and affordable android smartphones.
Pinchair said that Plus Codes were a free and open source addressing system to provide addresses for everyone.
According to him, the government of Gambia has adopted this in providing addresses for residents and businesses across the capital Banjul and are now scaling to the country
He said that plus codes would expand to South Africa, Kenya and other countries in partnership with governments and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs).
Through a Black Founders Fund, Google would invest in Black-led startups in Africa by providing cash awards and hands-on support.
He said the other investment includes 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.
He said that through this fund, the company would invest 50 million dollars in startups and provide them with access to Google’s employees, network, and technologies echnologies to help them build meaningful products for their communities.
According to him, empowering businesses as they continue or embark on their digital transformation.
Pinchair said in collaboration with the non-profit organisation Kiva, Google is providing 10 million dollars in low-interest loans.
He said it was to help small businesses and entrepreneurs in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa get through the economic hardship created by COVID-19.
Google.org is expanding its commitment to support nonprofits working to improve lives across Africa, with 40 million dollars to help more partners who are responding to challenges they see first-hand in their communities.
He said such innovators like the Airqo team at Makerere University, who use AI and sensors to monitor poor air quality, a leading cause of premature death.
He said Google was providing three million dollars in new grant funding to expand this pioneering work from Kampala across 10 cities in five countries in the continent.
According to him, the announcement expands Google’s ongoing support for Africa’s digital transformation and entrepreneurship.
Pinchair said to date Google has trained over six million people across 25 African countries, with over 60 per cent of participants experiencing growth in their career and/or business as a result.
“We’ve made huge strides together over the past decade — but there’s more work to do to make the internet accessible, affordable and useful for every African.
“Today, I’m excited to reaffirm our commitment to the continent through an investment of one billion dollars over five years to support Africa’s digital transformation to cover a range of initiatives from improved connectivity to investment in startups.”
Nitin Gajria, the Managing Director for Google in Africa, added that he was so inspired by the innovative African tech startup scene.
Gajria said that the last year had 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.
Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, the Minister of Small Business Development, South Africa, said she was happy to note that Google has been active in supporting small to medium enterprises
The minister said that Google was dedicating even more resources to this sector, since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ndabrni-Abraham said that in the last 12 months, Google has helped close to 500,000 African businesses get online and reach new customers.
She said providing a platform for African cultural treasures and collections.
According to her, since 2012, the Google Art and Culture team has partnered with institutions across the continent to preserve and promote their collections, providing a free online platform which anyone around the world can access.
She said that the result was hundreds of expertly-curated stories about Africa by Africans.
According to her, this includes a new project called ‘Cradle of Creativity’ dedicated to the creative history and heritage of Africa.
“In collaboration with the Yemisi Shyllon Museum of Art in Nigeria and the Origins Centre in South Africa, people across the globe can explore more than five hundred high resolution images.
“Sixty expertly-curated stories with audio narrations, as well as Street View virtual tours, helping to showcase Africa’s creative talent and heritage.