(Ecofin Agency) - Google announced it will invest $1 billion over the next 5 years to support digital transformation in Africa. The announcement was made today by Sundar Pichai (pictured), CEO of Google and Alphabet, during the first ever Google for Africa event held online and broadcast live.
The initiative will help improve access to the Internet and digital products, support startups, empower businesses, and support non-profits. Google is currently deploying the Equiano submarine cable that will run through South Africa, Namibia, Nigeria and St. Helena to connect Africa to Europe. The company is also working with several major telecom operators to make Android smartphones more affordable. Google is launching Plus Codes, which are free and open source addressing systems, to provide addresses and facilitate people's access to various online services such as e-commerce.
In the startup segment, Google announces investments through the Black Founders Fund. This initiative is in addition to the Google for Startups Accelerator Africa, which supports early stage startups. Moreover, the U.S. tech giant plans to launch a $50 million Africa Investment Fund that will provide startups with access to Google employees, network and technology to help them create meaningful products for their communities.
Low-interest loans will be provided to small businesses and entrepreneurs in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa to help them cope with Covid-19; $10 million will be made available for this action backed by the nonprofit organization Kiva. For nonprofits working to improve lives in Africa, Google plans $40 million in financial support.
“In the last year we have seen more investment rounds into tech startups 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 startup founders,” Nitin Gajria, Google's managing director in Africa, said.
Google has long supported digital growth on the continent. In 2017, the company launched the Grow with Google initiative to train 10 million young Africans and small businesses in digital skills. To date, Google claims to have trained over 6 million people in 25 African countries.