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Google to invest in black-led start-ups in Africa

06 October 2021 - 11:00
Google will invest R15bn over five years to support digital transformation in Africa.
Google will invest R15bn over five years to support digital transformation in Africa.
Image: REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

Google has announced its plan to invest $1bn (about R15bn) over five years to support digital transformation in Africa.

The investment announced on Wednesday will include the landing of the subsea cable Equiano, which will enable faster internet speeds and lower connectivity costs.

It also includes low-interest loans to help small businesses and equity investments in African start-ups.

Since 2017, Google has trained 6-million young Africans and businesses in digital skills. The company has also supported more than 50 non-profit organisations across Africa with more than $16m (R242.7m) in grants and enabled 100-million more Africans to access internet services for the first time through Android.

“Through a Black Founders Fund, Google will invest in black-led start-ups in Africa by providing cash awards and hands-on support. This is in addition to Google’s existing support through the Google for Start-ups Accelerator Africa, which has helped more than 80 African start-ups with equity-free finance, working space and access to expert advisers over the past three years,” Google said.

Google also announced the launch of an Africa Investment Fund through which the company will invest $50m (R758.6m) in start-ups and provide them with access to Google’s employees, network and technologies “to help them build meaningful products for their communities”.

The company, in collaboration with Kiva, a non-profit organisation, is providing $10m (R151.7m) in low-interest loans to help small businesses and entrepreneurs in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and SA get through the economic hardship created by the coronavirus pandemic.

“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. I’m excited to reaffirm our commitment to the continent through an investment of $1bn over five years to support Africa’s digital transformation to cover a range of initiatives from improved connectivity to investment in startups,” said Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai.

Nitin Gajria, managing director for Google in Africa, said: “I am so inspired by the innovative African tech start-up scene. In the past year, we have seen more investment rounds into tech start-ups 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 start-up founders. We look forward to deepening our partnership with, and support for, Africa’s innovators and entrepreneurs.”

Small business development minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams said : “I am happy to note Google has been active in supporting small to medium enterprises, dedicating even more resources to this sector, since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. In the past 12 months, Google has helped close to 500,000 African businesses get online and reach new customers.”