Google said on Wednesday it would invest $ 1 billion over the next five years to enable faster and more affordable internet access and support entrepreneurship in Africa.
Internet reliability is an issue in Africa where less than a third of the continent’s 1.3 billion people are connected to broadband, according to the World Bank. But the continent, where nearly half of the population is under 18, is a promising market.
According to the boss of Google and Alphabet, Sundar Pichai “enormous progress” has been made in recent years, but more efforts are needed to make “the Internet accessible, affordable and useful for all Africans”.
The investment will support digital transformation by ensuring improved connectivity and access, he said in a statement.
The funds will go, among other things, to the development of infrastructure, in particular the Equiano submarine cable which will link South Africa, Namibia, Nigeria and Saint Helena to Europe.
The deal extends Google’s commitment announced four years ago to train around 10 million young Africans and small businesses in digital skills.
“I firmly believe that no one is better placed to solve Africa’s biggest problems than young African developers and startup founders,” said Nitin Gajria, Google Managing Director for Africa.
Access to the Internet is also hampered by the affordability of smartphones.
Google has announced its partnership with Kenyan telecommunications giant Safaricom to launch affordable Android smartphones for new users.
The project will then be rolled out across the continent with other operators such as Airtel, MTN, Orange and Vodacom.