When Google CEO Sundar Pichai visited Lagos, Nigeria for the first time in 2017, he announced the company’s plans to train 10 million Africans in digital skills over the next 5 years. He also announced Google’s Launchpad accelerator for African startups.
In 2018, Google made good on its promise with investment in 12 African startups through its Launchpad Africa class, a program modeled after the global program in Silicon Valley. In addition, Google also promised to increase its funding to African startups and provide $20 million in grants to digital non-profits in Africa.
Fast forward three years later, Google is doubling down its bet in Africa. Today, Google said it plans to invest $1 billion in Africa over the next five years to provide access to fast and cheaper internet and will back startups to support the continent’s digital transformation.
This will include laying the underlying internet infrastructure including a subsea cable into the continent to enable faster internet speeds. Google has been building an undersea cable to link Africa and Europe, which the company says will bring faster internet and lower connectivity costs.
Good made the announcement at a virtual event where it launched an Africa Investment Fund led by Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai. During the event, Pichai said the tech giant will invest $50 million in startups, providing them with access to its employees, network, and technologies. The plans were unveiled today at an event led by Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai.
“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,” said Pichai.
Google said it will inject the investment in projects to be implemented in countries across the continent including Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda and Ghana. The subsea cable will cut across South Africa, Namibia, Nigeria, and St Helena, connecting Africa and Europe. It will provide approximately 20 times more network capacity than the last cable built to serve Africa, said the managing director for Google in Africa, Nitin Gajria.
“This will lead to a 21 percent reduction in internet prices and increase internet speed in Nigeria and almost triple in South Africa,” said Gajria. The investment is projected to create about 1.7 million jobs in Nigeria and South Africa by 2025 as the digital economy grows.
In collaboration with not-for-profit organization Kiva, Google will also provide $10 million in low-interest loans to help small businesses and entrepreneurs in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa get through the economic hardship created by COVID-19.
Google said a program pioneered last year in Kenya in partnership with Safaricom that allows customers to pay for 4G-enabled phones in installments would be expanded across the continent with mobile operators such as MTN, Orange, and Vodacom.