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Google commits $800m to support small businesses, governments

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As the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak grips nations across the globe, Google has committed $800 million (R14.3 billion) to support small and medium businesses (SMBs), health organisations and governments around the world.

As SA enters its fifth lockdown day,the COVID-19 outbreak continues to worsen in many parts of the world, taking a devastating toll on lives and communities. Infections continue to tick up, claiming the lives of over 37 800 people, with an infection rate of nearly 787 000 and recoveries at more than 165 900, at the time of publication.

SA had recorded 1 326 COVID-19 cases and three deaths by this morning.

Companies are forced to reconcile with the economic bloodbath the spread of the pandemic will have on their bottom line, with small businesses expected to take the biggest blow.

Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and Alphabet, explained in a blogpost: “To help address some of these challenges, today we’re announcing a new $800+ million commitment to support SMBs, health organisations and governments, and health workers on the frontline of this global pandemic.

“Direct financial support and expertise will help increase the production capacity for personal protective equipment and lifesaving medical devices. We’re working with our long-time supplier and partner Magid Glove & Safety, with the goal of ramping up production of two million to three million face masks in the coming weeks that will be provided to the CDC Foundation.”

Out of the $800 million, around $200 million will be channelled towards an investment fund that will provide small businesses with access to capital, and help support NGOs and financial institutions around the world, noted Pichai.

In addition, $340 million in Google Ads credits will be available to all SMBs with active accounts over the past year.

Another $250 million will go towards ad grants to help the World Health Organisation and more than 100 government agencies globally provide critical information on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other measures to help local communities.

“Credit notifications will appear in their Google Ads accounts and can be used at any point until the end of 2020 across our advertising platforms. We hope it will help to alleviate some of the cost of staying in touch with their customers.”

Responding to ITWeb’s questions as to how much of these funds would benefit African businesses and governments, Google SA said: “At this stage, we don't have much more information than that which is in the blog from Sundar.”

The tech giant says it is working with the Opportunity Finance Network in the US to help fill gaps in financing for people and communities underserved by mainstream financial institutions.

Meanwhile, Facebook has pledged $100 million to support US-based news companies negatively affected by the repercussions of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Earlier this month, the Department of Small Business Development announced the establishment of the Debt Relief Fund, aimed at providing relief on existing debts and repayments, to assist local SMBs during the period of the COVID-19 State of Disaster.

The Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Foundation were among the first companies to announce support for African governments affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, shipping over six million medical supplies, including face masks, test kits and protective suits and face shields, to help the continent fight coronavirus.

Huawei Technologies and Telkom have also made financial commitments to the value of R16 million, to help SA’s efforts in fighting COVID-19, while Naspers has committed R1.5 billion in emergency aid to help SA’s government.

Giving an update to the nation on COVID-19 on Sunday,president Cyril Ramaphosa said: “In addition to the financial pledges announced last week, we welcome the commitment by the Motsepe Foundation of R1 billion and by Naspers of R1.5 billion to the coronavirus response.

“We are also extremely grateful to Mr Jack Ma, the founder of the China-based company Alibaba, who has donated vital medical supplies to South Africa and other countries across Africa.”

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