Today, global tech giant Google announced plans to make an investment worth $1billion in Africa for a consecutive period of five years. The investment is aimed at supporting digital transformation across the continent. The announcement was made by the Chief Executive Officer of Google, Sundar Pichai, at the Google for Africa event which was held virtually.
“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 $1 billion over five years to support Africa’s digital transformation to cover a range of initiatives from improved connectivity to investment in startups”, Sunday Pichai said.
The investment will include the landing of the subsea cable Equiano which will increase internet speed by five times, and reduce data costs by 21 percent in countries like Nigeria and South Africa.
Google also said that it has set up a $50 million Africa Investment Fund to invest in African startups that are in their early and growth stages. Before now, Google has supported small businesses and startups in Africa through its Google for Startups Accelerator Africa program. The accelerator program has backed more than 80 startups in four years providing equity-free resources. The new $50 million funds will see Google take equity in high-growth startups around Africa in exchange for varying check sizes.
The investment fund is not preferential to certain countries, according to Nitin Gajria —the managing director of Google in Sub-Saharan Africa. He added that the fund might work similarly to the Google for Startups Accelerator program.
In collaboration with not-for-profit organisation Kiva, Google will also provide $10 million in low-interest loans to help small businesses and entrepreneurs in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa so they can get through the economic hardship created by COVID-19.
Present at the Google for Africa event was South Africa’s Minister of Small Business Development, Stella Tembisa Ndabeni-Abrahams, and she said: “I am happy to note that Google has been active in supporting Small to Medium Enterprises, 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.”
To date, Google, through its various initiatives, has trained over 6 million people across 25 African countries, with over 60 percent of participants experiencing growth in their businesses as a result. The tech giant has also supported more than 50 nonprofits across Africa with over $16million of investment and enabled hundreds of millions of Africans to access internet services for the first time.
The $1 billion investment will focus on enabling individuals and businesses to get access to affordable internet, building helpful products, helping businesses embark on their digital transformation, and providing funding for nonprofits to improve lives across Africa, Google’s blog post “Our $1 billion investment in Africa’s digital transformation” said.