US-based tech monolith Google, a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc, has announced its plans to invest $1-billion over 5 years to accelerate and support digital transformation across Africa through a series of new initiatives, from faster internet to backing startups.
The announcements were first made during yesterday’s first-ever Google for Africa virtual event, which can be recapped in the video below:
“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,” Alphabet CEO, Sundar Pichai said during the event.
The $1-billion investment will be channeled, amongst other things, around startups focusing on FinTech, e-commerce, and local language content, according to Nitin Gajria, MD for Google in Africa.
“We are looking at areas that may have some strategic overlap with Google and where Google could potentially add value in partnering with some of these startups,” Gajria said, quoted by Reuters.
Here are 4 things Google is planning to do in Africa as part of its massive investment:
- Building New Infrastructure:
In order to provide affordable access to fast internet in Africa, Google announced that it was building global infrastructure to cast faster internet connections to more people at lower costs.
It says its new subsea cable, Equiano, will run through South Africa, Namibia, Nigeria, and St. Helena and connect Africa to Europe.
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The Equiano cable is expected to increase internet speeds by 5 times, and lower data costs by up to 21% in the countries listed above.
- Supporting Startups in Africa:
Google announced that it would invest $50-million in startups through the launch of an Africa Investment Fund. Through this fund and initiative, Google will provide startups access to Google’s employees, network, and technologies to aid them in building meaningful products for their communities.
The Africa Investment Fund will add to Google’s existing Startups Accelerator Africa initiative, which has helped more than 80 African startups and provided them with equity-free finance, workspaces, and access to expert advisors for the last 3 years.
“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,” Gajria adds.
- Providing $10-Million to Aid Small Businesses:
Google announced a collaboration with non-profit organisation Kiva to provide $10-million in low-interest loans to help out small businesses and entrepreneurs in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa.
Small businesses and individual entrepreneurs across Africa have been adversely affected by the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic that has spurred countless lockdowns in countries around the continent. In Nigeria, a fifth of the workforce lost employment in 2020 due to the pandemic.
A similar job bleed occurred in Kenya, which saw its informal business sector battered by the pandemic.
- Google Expands its Commitment to Support Nonprofits:
Google said that it is expanding its commitment to support nonprofits working to improve lives across Africa, investing an additional $40-million to help more of these partner organisations.
In part of this, Google is providing a $3-million grant to the AirQo team at the Makerere University of Uganda.
The team uses AI and sensors to monitor poor air quality, which has been found to be a leading cause of premature deaths. The funding will help AirQo in expanding its work from Kampala, the capital of Uganda, to 10 more cities in 5 countries across Africa.