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Google commits R15bn to boost Africa’s digital transformation

By Chris Tredger, ITWeb Africa editor.
Johannesburg, 06 Oct 2021
Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and Alphabet.
Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and Alphabet.

Google will invest $1 billion (R15 billion) over a period of five years to support digital transformation in Africa.

During the first 'Google for Africa' event hosted virtually this week, Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and Alphabet, said the investment will include the landing of the Equiano subsea cable, which the company believes will enable faster internet speeds and lower connectivity costs.

Against this backdrop, the financial boost is expected to support Equiano, which will run through South Africa, Namibia, Nigeria and St Helena, and connect the continent with Europe.

Pichai added the investment includes low-interest loans to help small businesses and equity investments in African start-ups.

Google added it will utilise a Black Founders Fund to invest in black-led start-ups in Africa “by providing cash awards and hands-on support”.

Google also released details of an Africa Investment Fund. Through this fund, the company will invest $50 million in start-ups and provide them with access to Google’s employees, network and technologies to help them build meaningful products for their communities.

The company added: “In collaboration with the non-profit organisation Kiva, 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." is expanding its commitment to support non-profits 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 – innovators like 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 $3 million in new grant funding to expand this pioneering work from Kampala across 10 cities in five countries on the continent.

Pichai said: “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.”

Nitin Gajria, managing director of Google in Africa, added: “I am so inspired by the innovative African tech start-up scene. In the last year, we have seen more investment rounds into tech start-ups 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 start-up founders. We look forward to deepening our partnership with, and support for, Africa's innovators and entrepreneurs.”

South Africa’s minister of small business development Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams said: “I am happy to note 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.”

Google believes internet access is also hampered by the affordability of smartphones. Android has developed a device-locking technology as part of the Android platform that will enable partners to offer financed devices.

To this end, Google also announced collaboration with Safaricom in Kenya to launch what the companies describe as the first “device financing” plan in the East African country.

The plan is to expand the initiative across Africa through partnerships with Airtel, MKOPA, MTN, Orange, Transsion Holdings and Vodacom.