Google says it will be investing $1 billion to support “digital transformation” across Africa.
This will include landing a subsea cable into the continent to enable faster internet speeds, low-interest loans for small businesses, equity investments into African startups, skills training and more.
The unit of U.S. tech company, Alphabet Inc made the announcement at a virtual event on Wednesday where it launched an Africa Investment Fund, through which it will invest $50 million in startups, providing them with access to its employees, network and technologies.
“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 Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai
The Undersea cable being built by Google to link Africa and Europe is expected to increase internet speeds by five times and lower data costs by up to 21%
Google said it will inject the investment in projects to be implemented in countries across the continent, including Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda and Ghana.
The company would among others, target startups focusing on fintech, e-commerce and local language content.
The subsea cable 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% reduction in internet prices and increase internet speed in Nigeria and almost triple in South Africa,” said Gajria.
It is projected to create about 1.7 million jobs in Nigeria and South Africa by 2025 as the digital economy grows.
In collaboration with a San-Francisco based nonprofit lending 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 so they can get through the economic hardship created by COVID-19.
Small businesses in Africa often struggle to get capital because they lack the necessary collateral required by banks in case they default. When credit is available, interest rates are usually too high.
Google said a programme pioneered last year in Kenya in partnership with Safaricom that allows customers to pay for 4G-enabled phones in instalments would be expanded across the continent with mobile operators such as MTN, Orange and Vodacom.
It pledged $40 million to nonprofits improving lives in Africa.