Google eyes R37bn GDP boost with SA cloud region

Admire Moyo
By Admire Moyo, ITWeb's news editor.
Johannesburg, 05 Oct 2022

US-based internet search giant Google today officially confirmed its intent to establish a new Google Cloud region in South Africa – its first on the continent.

ITWeb first reported in September that Google was planning to establish a data centre in South Africa, saying it was looking to invest in launching a cloud infrastructure region in the medium- to long-term.

Today’s announcement came at the second Google for Africa event, and the company says in a statement this “is the latest example of how Google is delivering on the $1 billion investment commitment made last year by the company's CEO, Sundar Pichai”.

Last year, Pichai said Google will invest $1 billion over a period of five years to support digital transformation in Africa.

Google’s move to open its local region follows in the footsteps of rivals Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services, which led the way in establishing data centre facilities in South Africa.

Other hyperscalers such as Alibaba Cloud have also entered the local market after signing an exclusive partnership deal with Telkom-owned BCX.

Google’s local plans come as the tech giant officially unveiled its Equiano submarine internet cable in Cape Town last month – a massive initiative in which Google has invested $1 billion (R17 billion).

Economic boost

According to Google, the new cloud region will help users, developers, businesses and educational institutions across Africa to move more information and tools online, improve access options for customers and in turn, create jobs.

It says according to research by AlphaBeta Economics commissioned by Google Cloud, the South Africa cloud region will contribute more than a cumulative $2.1 billion (R37 billion) to the country’s GDP, and will support the creation of more than 40 000 jobs by 2030.

Niral Patel, director of Google Cloud Africa, says: “We believe in growing an open and healthy ecosystem of technology solutions to support Africa’s digital transformation goals, which leads to more opportunities for businesses.

“It is part of our company-wide ethos to respect the environment, which is why we operate the cleanest cloud in the industry, supporting sustainable digital transformation. Along with the cloud region, we are expanding our network through the Equiano subsea cable and building dedicated cloud interconnect sites in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Lagos and Nairobi. In doing so, we are building full-scale cloud capability for Africa.”

In South Africa, Google Cloud already works with retailer Takealot to help its three million local customers do online shopping.

Deputy communications and digital technologies minister Philly Mapulane. (Image: GCIS)
Deputy communications and digital technologies minister Philly Mapulane. (Image: GCIS)

Deputy minister of communications and digital technologies Philly Mapulane, says: “Our National Development Plan 2030 calls for stimulating growth in the information, communication and technology (ICT) sector and innovation by driving public and private ICT investment, especially in network upgrades and expansion.

“Google’s recent efforts in this regard have been particularly encouraging. The Equiano cable landed in Cape Town recently, and the improved speed and reduced internet costs that this can deliver has the potential to drive much fuller internet participation for many more South Africans.”

Earlier this year, Google announced plans to open its first African product development centre in Nairobi to develop and build better products for Africans and the world.

Today, the tech giant announced the launch of voice typing support for nine more African languages in Gboard, the Google keyboard (isiNdebele, isiXhosa, Kinyarwanda, Northern Sotho, Swati, Sesotho, Tswana, Tshivenda and Xitsonga) – while 24 new languages are now supported on Google Translate, including Lingala, which is used by more than 45 million people across Central Africa.

To make Maps more useful, Google also refreshed Street View in Kenya, South Africa, Senegal and Nigeria with nearly 300 000km of imagery.

The firm says this helps people virtually explore and navigate neighbourhoods on Google Maps. It is also extending the service to Rwanda, meaning Street View is now available in 11 African countries.

Support for African entrepreneurs

Africa’s internet economy has the potential to grow to $180 billion by 2025 – 5.2% of the continent’s GDP, says the internet search giant.

“To support African entrepreneurs in growing and developing their talent, Google continues to support African small businesses through the Hustle Academy and Google Business Profiles, and to help job-seekers learn the skills they need through developer scholarships and career certifications,” it says.

Google, through its $50 million Africa Investment Fund that targets equity investments in tech start-ups, has invested in three businesses over the past nine months – SafeBoda, a transportation app in Uganda and Nigeria; Carry1st, a South African mobile gaming start-up; and Lori Systems, an e-logistics company based in Kenya.

Nitin Gajria, managing director of Google Africa, adds: “We are collaborating with governments, policymakers, NGOs, telcos, business leaders, creators and media so that we can help accelerate Africa’s digital transformation. And it’s the talent and drive of the individuals in the countries and communities of Africa that will power Africa’s economic growth.”