Google today announced its intent to establish a new Google Cloud region in South Africa – its 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 Africa cloud region will contribute more than a cumulative USD 2.1b to the country’s GDP, and will support the creation of more than 40 000 jobs by 2030.
Google Cloud Africa director Niral Patel said: “We believe in growing an open and healthy ecosystem of technology solutions to support Africa’s digital transformation goals , which leads to more opportunities for businesses. It is part of our company-wide ethos to respect the environment, which is why we operate the cleanest cloud in the industry, supporting sustainable digital transformation,” he added. “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.”
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. In South Africa, Google Cloud works with leading retailer takealot.com to help their three million local customers enjoy a hassle-free online shopping experience. Takealot.com 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.”
Deputy Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies Philly Mapulane (South Africa) added: “Our National Development Plan 2030 calls for stimulating growth in the information, communication and technology (ICT) sector and innovation by driving public and private ICT investment, especially in network upgrades and expansion. 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.”
Earlier this year, Google announced plans to open its first African product development centre in Nairobi to develop and build better products for Africans and the world.
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) – 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 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.
Africa’s internet economy has the potential to grow to $180 billion by 2025 – 5.2% of the continent’s GDP. To support African entrepreneurs in growing and developing their talent, Google continues to support African small businesses through the Hustle Academy and Google Business Profiles, and to help job seekers learn the skills they need through developer scholarships and career certifications.
Google, through its $50 million Africa Investment Fund that targets equity investments in tech start-ups, has since invested in three businesses over the past nine months – SafeBoda, a transportation app in Uganda and Nigeria, Carry1st, a South African mobile gaming start-up and Lori Systems, an e- logistics company based in Kenya.
Managing director of Google Africa Nitin Gajria added: “We are collaborating with governments, policymakers, NGOs, telecommunication companies, business leaders, creators and media so that we 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.”
Milestones achieved include the subsea cable, Equiano, now running 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. 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 GDPs of Nigeria rising by USD 10.1 billion, South Africa USD 7 billion and USD 260 million in Namibia. During the same time, Equiano should 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.
Ghana Vice President Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia: “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. The Ghanaian government is proud of our partnership with Google through several initiatives.”
Google is also supporting non-profits 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 10 cities in five countries on the continent.
Google recently 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.