- Google CEO Sundar Pichai says Africa has the opportunity of exporting technologies to the rest of the world, but a heavy investment is required to make the dream a reality
- The CEO noted that Africa is on the cusp of a digital transformation, adding that 300 million more people are coming online in Africa over the next five years
- Sundar has urged other companies to make their investments and recommends focusing on four key areas that will ensure that the digital transformation benefits every African
Africa has the opportunity of exporting technologies to the rest of the world, but a heavy investment is required to make the dream a reality. Google CEO Sundar Pichai said that despite the continent has 18% of the global population, it only accounts for 0.4% of high-tech exports.
Further, Sundar said the continent accounts for only 2% of the world’s broader service exports.
“Boosting these exports will accelerate growth for the continent, much as it has in India,” Sundar said in an opinion piece published on the Project Syndicate.
Continent on transformation
The CEO noted that Africa is on the cusp of a digital transformation, adding that 300 million more people are coming online in Africa over the next five years.
Many, he said, are young, entrepreneurial, and digitally savvy.
Sundar said the continent’s internet economy can grow to a whopping $180 billion, roughly 5.2% of the continent’s GDP, by 2025. He added that partnerships between governments and private sector companies such as Google could play an essential role in accelerating the shift.
Investing in Africa
As reported by The Exchange Africa in October 2021, Google committed an additional $1 billion to Africa over the next five years.
Sundar has urged other companies to make their investments and recommends focusing on four key areas that will ensure that the digital transformation benefits every African:
1. Expand affordable and reliable internet
According to Sundar, companies in the technology space should expand affordable and reliable internet access throughout the continent.
The CEO said that people realised that digital connectivity is a lifeline that helped people find essential information and connect to critical services during the pandemic.
“Our Equiano subsea cable will bring faster, better-quality internet to more people, helping to bring down costs by more than 20%,” he said.
He added that working with partners like Econet Wireless, Google’s Taara team is deploying wireless optical communications links that use light to transmit information at super high speeds through the air, improving affordability and connectivity.
“We are also focusing on lowering the barriers to smartphone adoption, including by working with Safaricom in Kenya to introduce that country’s first device financing plans.”
2. Help businesses with their digital transformations
Sundar has also challenged companies to prioritise helping African enterprises, regardless of size, with their digital transformations.
Quoting the Portulans Institute, Sundar noted that business sophistication lags the availability of digital infrastructure.
“Closing that gap means enabling businesses to move online, training more people to pursue careers that depend on technology, and ensuring that companies take advantage of cloud computing.”
The CEO urged companies to invest in products and solutions that fit Africa. He also called on African governments to adopt regulatory environments and their development strategies to be digital-first.
“Small businesses need to be at the centre of digitisation and training efforts, as they employ around two-thirds of the continent’s formal workforce.”
3. Invest in African entrepreneurs
Sundar also urged other companies in the technology sector to back African enterprises.
“Where entrepreneurship flourishes, innovation and investment will follow. That is why we will be investing directly in African start-ups through a dedicated $50 million Africa Investment Fund, as well as through our global Black Founders Fund.”
Sundar said Google has already invested in SafeBoda – an app that connects passengers to a community of safe, trusted drivers – adding that they hope other companies will help provide additional funding for start-ups across the continent.
4. Support nonprofits
Sundar urged companies in tech to also back nonprofits and institutions working to unlock the benefits of technology.
Nonprofits such as AirQo team at Makerere University in Uganda use artificial intelligence and sensors to monitor air quality.
“We are providing them with $3 million so that they can take their work beyond Kampala, as part of a broader $40 million commitment to help NGOs respond to challenges in their communities.”
Sundar said any company seeking to invest in Africa should be open to learning. He added that their presence in Africa was helping them improve the technology they built for everyone.
The CEO said deeper partnerships would be vital to ensuring that Africa’s digital progress is sustainable in the future.
“We hope more companies will join us in these efforts, helping to ensure that every person in Africa can take advantage of the opportunities technology creates.”