Google to host its first African cloud region in South Africa. Gives report on $1bn fund

David Afolayan
The news came at the second Google for Africa event today…
Google to host its first African cloud region in South Africa. Gives report on $1bn fund

Google today announced its intent to establish a new Google Cloud region in South Africa – it is Google’s first on the continent. The news, which came at the second Google for Africa event, is the latest example of how Google is delivering on the $1bn investment commitment made last year by the company’s CEO, Sundar Pichai.

The new Cloud Region will 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.

According to research by AlphaBeta Economics commissioned by Google Cloud, the South African cloud region will contribute more than a cumulative USD 2.1 billion to the country’s GDP and will support the creation of more than 40,000 jobs by 2030.

Speaking at the event today, Niral Patel, Director of Google Cloud Africa explained that the project is part of the tech giant’s open and healthy ecosystem of technology solutions to support Africa’s digital transformation goals as well as create more opportunities for businesses in the region.

He explains how the project fits into Google’s broader mission for Africa:

“Along with the cloud region, we are expanding our network through the Equiano subsea cable and building Dedicated Cloud Interconnect sites in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Lagos and Nairobi. In doing so, we are building full-scale Cloud capability for Africa.”

Patel noted that Google Cloud is already working with customers across the continent – helping them solve business-critical challenges, get online, and access the benefits of digital technology.

Google to host its first African cloud region in South Africa. Gives report on $1bn fund

In South Africa, Google Cloud works with leading retailer TakeAlot to help their three million local customers enjoy a hassle-free online shopping experience. TakeAlot built its e-commerce platform on Google Cloud, which has enabled the business to avoid system crashes during high-traffic periods like Black Friday.

While in Kenya, Google Cloud works with Twiga Foods – a technology-driven company addressing and improving food security in Africa – helps them connect 1,000 farmers to 140,000 vendors, delivering 12,000 orders every day and storing two million kilograms of fresh produce.”

Read also: Google announces $1bn fund to support digital transformation in Africa over 5 years

One year since Google’s $1bn announcement: So far, how far?

Last year, CEO, Sundar Pichai announced the plan to invest $1 billion over 5 years to support Africa’s digital transformation. 

The company revealed at that time that the fund will cater for a plan to enable individuals and businesses to access affordable internet access, build helpful products, invest in entrepreneurship and technology, empower businesses to embark on their digital transformation as well as provide funding for nonprofits.

Sundar also disclosed that the investment will also include the landing of its, 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 startups.

Today, Google announced that  Equiano now runs through Togo, Nigeria, Namibia and South Africa, which is expected to deliver faster, lower-cost internet to the continent by connecting St. Helena, Togo, Nigeria, Namibia and South Africa with Europe.

Google to host its first African cloud region in South Africa. Gives report on $1bn fund
Nitin Gajria, Managing Director, Google Africa

A recent economic impact assessment conducted by Africa Practice and Genesis Analytics found that by 2025, the cable is set to accelerate economic growth with the GDPs of Nigeria rising by USD 10.1 billion, South Africa by USD 7 billion and USD 260 million in Namibia.

The report also indicated that Equiano will indirectly create 1.6 million jobs in Nigeria, 180,000 in South Africa and 21,000 in Namibia, driven by the expansion of the digital economy and peripheral sectors during the same time.

Nitin Gajria, Managing Director, Google Africa said that through its $50 million Africa Investment Fund that targets equity investments in tech startups, Google has since last year invested in three businesses over the past 9 months.

This includes SafeBoda, a transportation app in Uganda and Nigeria, Carry1st, a South African mobile gaming startup and Lori Systems, an e- logistics company based in Kenya.

Read also: 23 Nigerian startups selected for Google’s Black Founders Fund cohort II, see full list

Nitin also disclosed that Google has continued to support African small businesses through the Hustle Academy and Google Business Profiles as well as help job seekers learn the skills they need through Developer Scholarships and Career Certifications. This, he said, has helped to support African entrepreneurs in growing and developing talent.

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.

Asked why the company’s focus is on Africa, Nitin said that the answer is simple: Africa is the next frontier for technology growth and adoption.

“Africa’s internet economy has the potential to grow to $180 billion by 2025 – 5.2% of the continent’s GDP. And, over half of the population will be younger than 25 at that time. There is no other place to be”, he explained.

Engaging policy and policymakers

Nitin Gajri explained that Google is actively collaborating with governments, policymakers, NGOs, telcos, business leaders, creators and media across Africa so that the company can help accelerate Africa’s digital transformation.

“And it’s the talent and drive of the individuals in the countries and communities of Africa that will power Africa’s economic growth,” he adds.

Also speaking at the event, Ghanaian Vice President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia expressed the pleasure of the Ghanaian government to be in partnership with Google through several initiatives. This includes the founding of the AI Lab in Ghana as well as the provision of scholarships to students of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST).

Ghanaian Vice President, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia
Ghanaian Vice President, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia

Read also: Meet the 21 African news organisations selected for 2022 Google News Initiative $150,000 fund

According to him: “This event provides a quintessential platform for us as Africans, together with our partners, to demonstrate the importance of helpful partnerships between governments and the private sector in addressing African challenges”.

Similarly, Google also announced at the event that it has 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.

Also at the event, South African Deputy Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies, Philly Mapulane said that Google’s recent efforts in this regard have been particularly encouraging.

“The Equiano cable landed in Cape Town recently, and the improved speed and reduced internet costs that this can deliver has the potential to drive much fuller Internet participation for many more South Africans”, he added.

Recall that Google announced plans to open its first African product development centre in Nairobi to develop and build better products for Africans and the world, earlier this year.

Google to host its first African cloud region in South Africa. Gives report on $1bn fund
Ola Fadipe, Senior Director, Global Head of Performance Management, Google

Other announcements by Google

  • Today, Google 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 and Xitsonga).  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 has also refreshed Street View in Kenya, South Africa, Senegal and Nigeria with nearly three hundred thousand kilometres of imagery. This helps people virtually explore and navigate neighbourhoods on Google Maps.

    They are also extending the service to Rwanda, meaning that Street View is now available in 11 African countries.
  • Google also announced the launch of Google Warmups, a machine-learning-powered tool that helps job-seeking candidates to maximize their career opportunities by enabling them to undertake mock job interview questions, with a view to improving their interview performance for the real-life application process.

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