Google to invest $1bn in Nigeria, South Africa, others for digital economy

By Adeyemi Adepetun

. Its subsea cable, Equiano to run through S’Africa, Namibia, Nigeria and St. Helena
. Offers $10m in low-interest loans to help SMEs cushion effect of COVID-19.

Search giant, Google is to invest $1 billion over the next five years in Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya and others for the region’s digital transformation.

The investment focuses on enabling fast, affordable Internet access for more Africans; building helpful products; supporting entrepreneurship and small businesses; and helping nonprofits to improve lives across Africa.

The announcement was made yesterday, at the first ever Google for Africa event, held virtually and livestreamed.

The planned $1 billion investment announced by Chief Executive Officer of Google and Alphabet, Sundar Pichai, will help enable affordable Internet access and building helpful products; boosts entrepreneurship and technology; empowering businesses, which embark on digital transformation, and renewed funding for nonprofits in the region.

Pichai explained that Google is building global infrastructure to help bring faster Internet to more people and lower connectivity costs.

He said the subsea cable Equiano will run through South Africa, Namibia, Nigeria and St Helena and connect the continent with Europe.

The Google CEO, who said Internet access is also hampered by the affordability of smartphones, said Android has developed a device locking technology as part of the Android platform that will enable partners to offer financed devices.

On this, he disclosed that Google has collaborated with Kenya’s largest carrier Safaricom to support the launch of the first “Device Financing” plan in Kenya, and will expand this initiative across Africa with partners like Airtel, MTN, Orange, Transsion Holdings and Vodacom, and more.

According to him, these partnerships will help millions of first-time smartphone users gain access to quality, affordable Android smartphones.

Pichar said Google.org is expanding its commitment to support nonprofits working to improve lives across Africa, with $40 million to help more partners, who are responding to challenges they see first hand in their communities.

Through a Black Founders Fund, Pichar said Google will invest in Black-led startups in Africa by providing cash awards and hands-on support, adding that 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.

He 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.

In collaboration with the non-profit organisation, Kiva, Pichar informed that Google is providing $10 million 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.

The announcement expands Google’s ongoing support for Africa’s digital transformation and entrepreneurship. In 2017, Google launched its Grow with Google initiative with a commitment to train 10 million young Africans and small businesses in digital skills. 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. Google has also supported more than 50 nonprofits across Africa with over $16 million of investment, and enabled hundreds of millions of Africans to access internet services for the first time through Android.

Managing Director for Google in Africa, Nitin Gajria, added: “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.”

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