At its very first Google for Africa event held today, Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced the company’s plan to invest $1 billion to support digital transformation in Africa. The investment focuses on enabling fast, affordable internet access for more Africans. This is alongside efforts to build helpful products, support entrepreneurship, small business and nonprofit organisations.
During the virtual live event, Sundar 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.”
“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.”
The tech giant also pledged to invest in Black-owned startups via the Black Founders Fund. The firm will also be collaborating with nonprofit Kiva to provide up to $10 million (roughly KES 1.1 billion) in low-interest loans for SMEs and entrepreneurs. The fund is meant to help these businesses recover from losses incurred from the pandemic.
Additionally, Google will invest $50 million (roughly KES 5.5 million) in startups across the continent. This is via the newly announced Africa Investment Fund.
Google also plans to invest heavily in infrastructure and device affordability to facilitate faster internet for more people. This includes the subsea cable Equiano that will run through South Africa, Namibia, Nigeria and St Helena and connect the continent with Europe.
“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,” says Google.
The firm also mentioned its recently announced partnership with Safaricom to support the launch of the first “Device Financing” plan in Kenya. The same initiate is planned to expand to other countries in partnership with other major telcos. This includes Airtel, M-KOPA, MTN, Orange, Transsion Holdings and Vodacom and more.
A New Addressing System
Alongside the numerous projects, Google also plans to launch Plus Codes in Africa. This involves a free and open addressing system to provide addresses for everyone. This will be in response to the system that the government of The Gambia has adopted now providing addresses for residents and businesses across the capital Banjul.
“Plus Codes will expand to South Africa, Kenya and other countries in partnership with governments and non-governmental organisations,” the firm said in a statement.
This would definitely be welcome especially in Kenya where the traditional addressing system has never seemed to work for decades now.