It’s One Year Since Google Sets Aside $1 Billion to Support Africa’s Digital Economy, But Much Still Needs to Be Done As Google Makes Good of Its Plan

One year since Google set aside $1 billion to bolster digital services, the US-based tech giant recently announced South Africa as its first cloud region on the African continent. The company also gave updates on how it intended to make good on its commitment.

The internet service giant has set up a subsea cable which is the necessary infrastructure for positioning itself as the leading internet connectivity provider in the continent. Google has also financed low-interest loans to small businesses and startups across the region in its latest development programs in Africa.

Google’s $1 billion investment in Africa focuses on four crucial sectors; provision of affordable access to Google products in the continent, supporting businesses with digital transformation, investment in entrepreneurs to improve next-generation technologies, and support nonprofit organizations committed to transforming Africa.

Reports indicate that Africa’s internet economy can grow to $180 billion by 2025. This growth will see the internet economy contribute 5.2% of the region’s GDP. Installation of subsea cables will spur this growth as they reduce data costs and improve the data speed as the number of Africans using the internet rise.

Since the announcement of Google’s subsea cable, Equiano, in February, the cable has run through Togo, Nigeria, Namibia, and South Africa. Google’s Managing Director for Africa, Nitin Gajria, said the subsea cable connects Africa to Europe and expects it to operate fully by the end of the year.

Another Google plan that aims at promoting internet access and affordability is Project Taara. Taara utilizes light for data transmission and removes the need for expensive infrastructure like the use of cables. As much as the project is still in progress, Google has already successfully piloted six regional countries, including Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Gajria said that experts at X, Alphabet’s moonshot factory, are using light beams to provide high-speed internet access. Specifically, this technology is applied in areas where it’s difficult or uneconomical to install fiber. Gajria reiterated that the project had enabled internet users in the piloted six African countries to access affordable and abundant internet connectivity. The manager expressed his excitement about the initiative to lower infrastructural costs, lowering the cost of data to the end user. Gajria also clarified that some gains had been made in Google’s programs for the African tech scene since its launch in 2018. For example, Google for startups Accelerator Africa program has supported over 96 startups, raising about $230 million in venture capital.