At the first virtual Google for Africa event today, Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and Alphabet, announced a plan to invest $1billion over 5 years to support digital transformation in Africa.
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.
“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.” Sundar Pichai said.
To provide affordable internet access in Africa, Google is building global infrastructure to help bring faster internet to more people and lower connectivity costs. Its subsea cable Equiano will run through South Africa, Namibia, Nigeria and St Helena and connect the continent with Europe.
As part of Google’s commitment to supporting Black-led startups in Africa, the company announced the launch of an Africa Investment Fund. Through this fund, it will invest $50M in startups and provide them with access to Google’s employees, network, and technologies to help them build meaningful products for their communities. 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.
“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,” Nitin Gajria, Managing Director for Google in Africa said.
“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.”
To cater for small businesses and entrepreneurs, Google is collaborating with non-profit organisation Kiva to provide $10M in low-interest loans to help small businesses and entrepreneurs in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa get through the economic hardship created by COVID-19.
Nonprofits haven’t been left out of this, Google.org is expanding its commitment to support nonprofits working to improve lives across Africa, with an additional $40M to help more partners organisations. In the case of the Airqo team at Makerere University, who use AI and sensors to monitor poor air quality, a leading cause of premature death. Google is providing $3M in new grant funding to expand this pioneering work from Kampala across 10 cities in 5 countries on the continent.
The announcement of the $1bn investment is commendable and a testament to Google’s commitment to supporting digital transformation in Africa. Since 2017, Google has trained 6 million young Africans and businesses in digital skills. Google has also supported more than 50 nonprofits across Africa with over $16 million of grants and enabled 100 million more Africans to access internet services for the first time through Android.