Google to help African SMEs get back on their feet

Google yesterday announced a multimillion-rand initiative to help small businesses and individuals in SA and the rest of Africa recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The initiative includes a R50 million ($3 million) COVID-19 response grant by focusing on education, small businesses and jobseekers, as well as newly introduced tools.

R8.3 million ($500 000) of that is going towards a grant to the Praekelt Foundation – a software development non-profit that builds open source, scalable mobile technologies and solutions to improve the health and wellbeing of underprivileged people – which Google says will help train micro and small businesses in South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria.

An additional R8.3 million grant is going to Youth Employment Services in order to provide 12-month employment opportunities and digital skills to young black people in South Africa.

Further, 500 000 students and 25 000 teachers are expected to benefit from the programme, says the Internet search giant.

Commenting on the initiative, Google SA country director Alistair Mokoena says: “Small businesses have been hardest hit during this period. Many of them have had to figure out quickly how to pivot their operations to a ‘digital-first’ approach. Yet, there remains a gap between those who can access these online opportunities and those who can’t. That’s the gap we want to bridge with this initiative.

“We will continue to do our part to help businesses recover and grow, help more people prepare for jobs, and support students, teachers and underserved communities. And in-so-doing, we hope to create real economic opportunity for everyone.”

With the initiative, Google has joined other global tech companies like Facebook that have set aside miilions of rands to help revive economic activities in post-COVID-19 relief efforts.

Last month, Facebook announced a multimillion-rand grant to benefit 30 000 eligible small businesses, in more than 30 countries, that have experienced operational challenges due to COVID-19.

Similarly, Google says its plans will cater for educational institutions and vulnerable populations as they grapple with the "new normal" and begin to rebuild and recover from the impact of COVID-19 across the continent.

The company has set up a digital hub providing free tools and resources to businesses and individuals.

It says the hub will give 50 000 small businesses help to get online or improve their digital presence through Google My Business, which helps businesses connect with millions of users every month.

The tech giant says it is also launching a Marketing Kit tool to help people to put together marketing kits for their businesses, while the free Market Finder tool (which includes updated insights for negotiating a COVID and post-COVID environment) is there to help with localisation, international payments and logistics for African businesses looking to reach new customers around the world.

“Using information from their Google My Business profile, the tool helps businesses keep customers informed with their latest news, create custom posters and social posts,” says Google.

Turning to jobseekers, Google says in an effort to help them acquire new skills while they look for opportunities, the tech company is providing underserved communities and jobseekers with R12.5 million ($750 000) in IT support scholarships through across Africa.

Jobseekers can also access the Grow with Google training portal for help in growing their careers or businesses at their own pace and through flexible and personalised training courses.

For educational institutions and teachers, Google says it is working with partners across Africa, through Google for Education, to help deploy its suite of education products in schools and to enable 500 000 students to continue learning.

“To help teachers keep teaching, Google aims to give 25 000 educators access to free online training sessions and resources, such as Teach from Anywhere,” says Google.

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