Google announced on Wednesday that it will invest $1 billion in Africa over the next five years to ensure that the continent has access to fast and affordable internet, as well as backing companies to accelerate the continent’s digital transformation.
The statement was made at a virtual event where Alphabet Inc announced the formation of an Africa Investment Fund, through which it will invest $50 million in businesses and provide them with access to its staff, network, and technologies.
In a virtual interview with Reuters, Nitin Gajria, managing director of Google in Africa, said the business would seek startups focused on fintech, e-commerce, and local language content, among other things.
“We are looking at areas that may have some strategic overlap with Google and where Google could potentially add value in partnering with some of these startups,” Gajria said.
Google will also contribute $10 million in low-interest loans to small companies and entrepreneurs in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa, in conjunction with non-profit group Kiva, to assist them get through the economic hardship caused by COVID-19.
Small enterprises in Africa frequently face difficulties obtaining funding because they lack the requisite collateral that banks require in the event of a default.
When financing is accessible, the interest rates are frequently excessive.
Google announced that a program launched last year in Kenya in conjunction with Safaricom that allows customers to pay for 4G-enabled phones in installments will be expanded across Africa with mobile operators such as MTN, Orange, and Vodafone.
According to Gajria, a Google-built underwater cable connecting Africa and Europe should be operational in the second half of next year, increasing internet speeds by five times and lowering data costs by up to 21% in countries like South Africa and Nigeria.