Programmatic Lunch

Alphabet plans African expansion, with $20m in grants for digital nonprofits planned

Tim Maytom


Google owner Alphabet is planning on expanding a number of initiatives across African following Google CEO Sundar Pichai's recent trip to Nigeria. While in Lagos, Pichai announced plans to increase funding for African startups, with the internet giant making up to $20m  (£15.4m) available in grants to digital nonprofits.

Alphabet also announced plans to train 10m Africans in digital skills over the next five years in an effort to accelerate the continent's startup scene, which has been held back by slow and unreliable broadband internet and costly data plans.

Pichai was in Lagos to officially inaugurate the Google Launchpad Accelerator that opened there earlier this year. The program will offer $3m in equity-free funding and mentorship to 60 African startups over the next three years.

The $20m in funding for nonprofits will focus on organisations "working to improve lives across Africa", with initial grants made to Nigerian professional development startup Gidi Mobile and South African math and science venture Siyavula, both of which received $2.5m. Google is also launching an African Impact Challenge in 2018, which will make a further $5m in grants available to nonprofit innovators.

The increased investment in Africa is accompanied by new product rollouts there, aimed at addressing the unique needs of African consumers. Alphabet is testing YouTube Go in Nigeria, a slimmed-down version of the video platform that enables for greater offline and slow network video consumption.

Google has also upgraded its Maps app for Lagos, providing Nigerian users with a browsing feature that streamlines search results for low storage devices, using 90 per cent less data and loading five times faster.

Alphabet's interest in Africa is part of a wave of tech investment in the continent. eBay, Uber, IBM and Netflix have all expanded their presence there over the past 18 months, and Mark Zuckerberg toured innovation hubs in Kenya and Nigeria back in 2016. Early 2016 also saw online retailer Jumia become Africa's first 'unicorn' following investment from firms including Goldman Sachs.

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