Google makes good on its $1B plan to support Africa’s digital economy, but there is a long way to go


A worker of the Google Artificial Intelligence (AI) center
Image Credits: CRISTINA ALDEHUELA / Getty Images

It’s one year into Google’s five-year, $1 billion plan to boost digital services across Africa, and on the heels of its latest investment — announcing South Africa as its first cloud region on the continent — the internet services giant also gave an update to lay out how it’s making good on its commitment.

It has built infrastructure — a subsea cable — to position itself as a major connectivity provider in the region; and it’s played financier, with low-interest loans to small businesses and investments to African growth startups.

Overall, Google’s $1 billion investment in the continent is focused on four key areas: providing affordable access and helpful (Google) products for Africans, supporting businesses with digital transformation, investing in entrepreneurs to spur next-generation technologies and supporting nonprofits working on some of the continent’s biggest challenges.

Google confirms $1B investment into Africa, including subsea cable for faster internet

Reports say Africa’s internet economy can grow to $180 billion by 2025, accounting for 5.2% of the continent’s GDP. Subsea cables are pivotal to this growth as they drive down data costs and increase data speed as more Africans participate in the internet economy.

Since its announcement this February, Google’s subsea cable, Equiano, which connects Africa with Europe, now runs through Togo, Nigeria, Namibia and South Africa. The subsea cable is expected to be fully operational by year’s end, Nitin Gajria, Google’s managing director for Africa, said today.

Project Taara is another Google scheme centered around making the internet accessible and affordable. Taara uses light to transmit data, removing the need for expensive infrastructure like cables. While the technology is a work in progress, the company had made successful pilots across six African countries, including Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“Our colleagues at X, Alphabet’s moonshot factory, are providing high-speed internet access using beams of light in areas where it’s either too difficult or not economically viable to install fiber. This is now piloted in six African countries working to bring affordable and abundant internet to more people across the country. We’re excited about the possibilities this opens up in terms of bringing down infrastructure costs, and therefore the cost of data to the end user,” he added.

Gajria also announced updates on Google’s programs for the African tech scene. Since its launch in 2018, Google for Startups Accelerator Africa program has supported more than 96 startups in seed to Series A stages, collectively raising $230 million in venture capital. Last year, Google revealed its Africa Investment Fund, a $50 million fund, to invest in growth-stage startups across the continent. It has backed three companies through the fund: Ugandan mobility platform-turned-super app SafeBoda, South African mobile gaming company Carry1st and Kenyan online logistics and haulage company Lori Systems.

Google sets up $50M fund to invest in African startups

Alphabet’s Project Taara is beaming high-speed internet across the Congo River

Underlining its commitment to support underserved entrepreneurs in Africa, the tech giant also set up the Black Founders Fund, which kicked off with a promise to provide capital of up to $100,000, an opportunity to connect with founders from across the globe and access to some of the firm’s services and products.

In its latest and second batch, Google provided $4 million in non-dilutive capital to 60 startups within Africa, building on the $3 million it extended to the first cohort. Google said that the fund is meant to “fuel generational and systemic change” in an ecosystem where only a handful of founders manage to raise funding. And in continuing with its efforts to support SMEs, early this year, the tech giant also launched Google Hustle Academy with a plan to train thousands of SMEs and entrepreneurs across the continent.

“Earlier this year, we launched the Hustle Academy and to date, more than 3,000 small and medium-sized businesses have gone through this free week-long boot camp geared at helping them increase revenue, position themselves for investment and build sustainable business models for the future,” said Gajria about progress on this front. “The role that Google has played in supporting Africa’s entrepreneurs is particularly close to my heart because this is an area I’m truly passionate about.”

On Google’s fourth area of investment, which is its work with NGOs, Gajria highlighted how the tech giant is giving out $1 million in ad grants monthly to over 40,000 people collaborating in Google workspaces for nonprofits on the continent.

Doubling down on its infrastructural investments in Africa, in April this year, Google also launched its first product development center in Africa in what it said was aimed at building “transformative” products and services for the African market and the world. The center in Nairobi is Google’s second major research and development investment in Africa after the tech giant set up an AI and research center in Ghana in 2019.

Google opens product development center in Nairobi, its first in Africa

More TechCrunch

Featured Article

I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Women in tech still face a shocking level of mistreatment at work. Melinda French Gates is one of the few working to change that.

1 hour ago
I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s  broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Blue Origin has successfully completed its NS-25 mission, resuming crewed flights for the first time in nearly two years. The mission brought six tourist crew members to the edge of…

Blue Origin successfully launches its first crewed mission since 2022

Creative Artists Agency (CAA), one of the top entertainment and sports talent agencies, is hoping to be at the forefront of AI protection services for celebrities in Hollywood. With many…

Hollywood agency CAA aims to help stars manage their own AI likenesses

Expedia says Rathi Murthy and Sreenivas Rachamadugu, respectively its CTO and senior vice president of core services product & engineering, are no longer employed at the travel booking company. In…

Expedia says two execs dismissed after ‘violation of company policy’

Welcome back to TechCrunch’s Week in Review. This week had two major events from OpenAI and Google. OpenAI’s spring update event saw the reveal of its new model, GPT-4o, which…

OpenAI and Google lay out their competing AI visions

When Jeffrey Wang posted to X asking if anyone wanted to go in on an order of fancy-but-affordable office nap pods, he didn’t expect the post to go viral.

With AI startups booming, nap pods and Silicon Valley hustle culture are back

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

A new crop of early-stage startups — along with some recent VC investments — illustrates a niche emerging in the autonomous vehicle technology sector. Unlike the companies bringing robotaxis to…

VCs and the military are fueling self-driving startups that don’t need roads

When the founders of Sagetap, Sahil Khanna and Kevin Hughes, started working at early-stage enterprise software startups, they were surprised to find that the companies they worked at were trying…

Deal Dive: Sagetap looks to bring enterprise software sales into the 21st century

Keeping up with an industry as fast-moving as AI is a tall order. So until an AI can do it for you, here’s a handy roundup of recent stories in the world…

This Week in AI: OpenAI moves away from safety

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

2 days ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

2 days ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies

OpenAI has reached a deal with Reddit to use the social news site’s data for training AI models. In a blog post on OpenAI’s press relations site, the company said…

OpenAI inks deal to train AI on Reddit data

X users will now be able to discover posts from new Communities that are trending directly from an Explore tab within the section.

X pushes more users to Communities

For Mark Zuckerberg’s 40th birthday, his wife got him a photoshoot. Zuckerberg gives the camera a sly smile as he sits amid a carefully crafted re-creation of his childhood bedroom.…

Mark Zuckerberg’s makeover: Midlife crisis or carefully crafted rebrand?

Strava announced a slew of features, including AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, a new ‘family’ subscription plan, dark mode and more.

Strava taps AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, unveils ‘family’ plan, dark mode and more