Google said on Wednesday that it plans to invest $1 billion in Africa over the next five years to ensure access to fast and affordable internet and that it will back startups to help the continent’s digital transformation.
The announcement was made at a virtual event where the unit of U.S. tech company Alphabet announced the launch of an Africa Investment Fund, through which it will invest $50 million in startups and provide them with access to its employees, network, and technologies.
In addition, Google will provide $10 million in low-interest loans in collaboration with the non-profit organization Kiva to help small businesses and entrepreneurs in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa overcome the economic hardship caused by COVID-19.
“Today I’m excited to reaffirm our commitment to the continent through an investment of $1 billion over five years to support Africa’s digital transformation to cover a range of initiatives from improved connectivity to investment in startups,” said Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and Alphabet.
Google announced that a program launched last year in Kenya in collaboration with Safaricom that allows customers to pay for 4G-enabled phones in instalments would be expanded across the continent with mobile operators including MTN, Orange, and Vodacom.
The company is constructing an undersea cable that will connect Africa and Europe, bringing faster internet and lower connectivity costs.
In 2017, Google aims to train 10 million people in Africa in online skills over the next five years in an effort to make them more employable.
The U.S. technology giant also hopes to train 100,000 software developers in Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa. Google’s pledge at the time marked an expansion of an initiative it launched in April 2016 to train young Africans in digital skills.