We attended the first Google for Africa event in 2021 and were impressed by how much Google was investing in Africa to improve educational, technology, entrepreneurial and developmental indices across the continent. We learned of the plan to invest $1Billion over a period of five years to support a range of initiatives from improved connectivity to investment in startups to help boost Africa’s digital transformation.
The second virtual Google for Africa 2022 event was held on October 5-7, 2022, and the global tech giant shared how it is delivering on its commitment to support various initiatives: from improved connectivity to investment in startups and nonprofits. It was an opportunity to learn what Google is doing on the continent to improve our economic indices and overall development.
Here are some of the key points we found fascinating at the event.
In his opening remarks, Nitin Gajria, the Managing Director of Google, shared that Google was investing the $1 billion in Africa Digital Transformation in four areas: affordable access and helpful products; digital transformation for African businesses: investment in African Entrepreneurs; and support for non-profits in Africa.
Investment in African Entrepreneurs through Google for Start-Ups provides equity-free finance, work space, and access to expert advisers. Last year Google for starters launched Black Founders’ Fund to invest in black-led startups in Africa and through Google for Nonprofits, Google is donating $1 million in ad grants every month and helping people collaborate with Google Workspace and Google Career Certificate scholarships.
James Mayinka, Senior Vice President of Technology and Society at Google, spoke on Building the Future together.
Something powerful about his speech was the need to understand that partnership is an essential foundation we need to capitalize on. The potential technology offers Africa for growth, prosperity, and opportunities cannot be overemphasized because 19 of the 20 fastest-growing countries in the world are in Africa and the African economy has the potential to grow by $180 billion in 2025. This potential would create increased opportunity, let families earn a living, and expand the incredible pool of talents and entrepreneur energy on the continent.
He also mentioned that at the United Nations General Assembly, Google announced a renewed commitment to use Artificial Intelligence to monitor the progress on the Sustainable Development Goals. The commitment includes a $25 million fund to support non-governmental and non-profit organizations in this work.
We were excited to hear that all the projects supported will be open source to ensure that the progress made by one organization will be accessible to others so they can build and expand on it.
Ghana seemed deeply committed to benefiting from these opportunities. Dr. Manamudu Bawumia, Vice President of Ghana, delivered a speech titled, “Helpful Partnerships for Digital Transformation”. He made candid explanations that in Ghana, they have put the private sector at the front and center because the private sector is the innovation in the technology space, they can bring a lot of financing to the table and they have an incentive to keep the systems that are deployed to work efficiently.
He explained their partnership with Google which has enabled job creation through the launch of the Artificial Intelligent Research Center: the only one in Africa, based in Accra, Ghana.
Niral Patel, Director of Google Cloud, Africa, spoke on Digital transformation with Google Cloud.
We learned that Google operates the cleanest cloud in the industry. It has been carbon neutral since 2007 and the goal is to operate on carbon-free energy by 2030. This would make Google the first cloud to achieve this.
He announced that a google cloud region would be open in South Africa, building cloud interconnect sites in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Lagos, and Nairobi. In doing so, they are building full-scale cloud capacity for Africa. This will help businesses adopt new technology and unleash new opportunities for the people of Africa.
And just when we wondered if there was no woman in the lineup of speakers, Agnes Gathaiya, Country Director, Google East Africa, was introduced.
She spoke on Building for Africa with Africa by Africans and shared the improvements in language accessibility and barriers using Google. “If you talk to a person in a language they understand, it goes to their head. But if you talk to them in their language, it goes to their heart.”
We learned that Google keyboard has about 200+ African languages and that Google made progress in ensuring letters and ascent that contribute to the richness of our African languages are available for text on our devices.
One of the most fascinating things we gleaned from her presentation was that, through Google Source Initiatives, the community helps train machine learning models to improve speech recognition technologies. Also, the Africa Product Development Center in Nairobi, Kenya, is the first of its kind, where talents joining the team will help create full products and services for the continent.
She announced that Google also launched Interview Warm Up, which helps people practice for interviews and get more confident about the interview process.
Google was speaking the language we loved to hear about our continent.
But there was more.
Ola Fadipe, Senior Director, People Operation, Google, delved into the ‘Investing Africa’s Talents’ presentation.
She declared that Google for Startups is supporting entrepreneurs who are solving local problems. And that the second part of the fund will support 60 African startups with $1 million in equity-free funding, $200,000 in Google cloud credits, and mentorship. And 50% of these are Women-led Startups. Whoopee!
Some examples of job seekers’ support that she mentioned were: Google Career Certificate program where 87% of graduates have reported a positive career outcome within 6 months of completion; the Google African Developer Scholarship program which has helped 105,000 African developers on Android web and Google cloud technology, exceeding the original plan of 100,000 developers; Partnership with the Kenya Ministry of Education, the Technical and Vocational Education and Training Authorities, and the Africa Center for Advanced Technology helped to train 300 tutors from 45 institutions across Kenya to support learning and gaining technical skills needed; Eko for Show, Mali Magic has developed on Google Arts & Culture, a collaboration with 7 cultural institutions, to showcase the stories of emerging African creatives in music, films, fashion, sports, etc. and preserve and digitalize our African culture; and Google News Initiative supports innovators who demonstrate new thinking in the journalist space.
In closing, Diana Layfield, Vice President of International Search and Growth, Google, emphasized that the combination of creativity and knowledge is what drives Innovation. She announced that Google launched Google Startup for Sustainable Development. It supports start-ups through mentoring, networking, and technology.
We can say the biggest announcement was Google’s intention to open Africa’s first Cloud Data Region (data center) in South Africa, with interconnecting sites in Nigeria and Kenya. The news, which came at the second Google for Africa event, is the latest example of how Google delivers on the $1bn investment commitment made last year by the company’s CEO, Sundar Pichai.
The South Africa cloud region will contribute more than a cumulative $2.1 billion to the country’s GDP and will support the creation of more than 40,000 jobs by 2030. The new Cloud Region will also help users, developers, businesses, and educational institutions across Africa to move more information and tools online, improve access options for customers, and, in turn, create jobs.
Google also announced the launch of voice typing support for nine more African languages in Gboard, the Google keyboard (isiNdebele, isiXhosa, Kinyarwanda, Northern Sotho, Swati, Sesotho, Tswana, Tshivenda a, and Xitsonga) – while 24 new languages are now supported on Google Translate, including Lingala, which is used by more than 45 million people across Central Africa.
To make Maps more useful, Google also refreshed Street View in Kenya, South Africa, Senegal, and Nigeria with nearly three hundred thousand kilometers of imagery. This helps people virtually explore and navigate neighborhoods on Google Maps. They are also extending the service to Rwanda, meaning that Street View is now available in 11 African countries.
Google is also supporting nonprofits working to improve lives in Africa with a $40 million cash and in-kind commitment. Last year, 7,500 career scholarships were disbursed to help young people learn new skills and build their careers, while Uganda’s AirQo received a $3 million grant to support the expansion of their work on monitoring air quality from Kampala to ten cities in five countries on the continent. Recently Google partnered with the UN to launch the Global Africa Business Initiative (GABI), a global partnership aiming to accelerate Africa’s economic growth and sustainable development.
We knew it was Google and they are a tech giant but…we were impressed. There was so much opportunity that could be harnessed when the right kinds of investment are done on the continent. The ripple effects on our people, communities, countries and the continent at large fills us with excitement.
While many African countries were mentioned in this, we hoped there were more countries involved in these investments, especially countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo where a lot of the Cobalt needed to lay their infrastructure is mined from, and whose economy is much worse for it. We envision a future where Google includes these countries in their investment opportunities. More than that, we want to see even more government ownership of these opportunities.
With the internet – all areas of digital technologies to keep it a buck – we can really move the development indices of our continent.
Kudos to Google! We will be following up with their plans and seeking opportunities to benefit from some of their investments.