As the most influential Silicon Valley company in the world, the footprint of tech giant Google in Africa has been mostly limited to branding its consumer products and financing humanitarian projects. However, things are starting to change in 2017, with Google paying more attention to the nascent tech startup scene and the potential of funding business ventures. Ever since Google began generating massive revenues from online advertising and search engine marketing, the company has been very active in funding a diverse portfolio of tech ventures from Europe, Asia, Oceania, and the Americas. Unfortunately, Africa was missing from Launchpad, the venture capital division of Google, but that is no longer the case as of late July.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai has been very busy extending the company’s global reach this year, and one of his latest stops was Lagos, the bustling metropolis that was once the capital of Nigeria. The first Google Launchpad physical office to be located outside of the United States will soon start operating in Lagos, and Pichai also announced that the company is ready to contribute $20 million to charitable efforts across Africa in the next five years. Google realizes that young people are the greatest resource that Africa currently has, but education and job opportunities are desperately needed for the purpose of tapping into this resource. To this effect, the search engine giant is starting off with two financial grants to Siyavula, an online learning platform for math and science in South Africa, and to Gidi Mobile, a provider of educational smartphone apps. The immediate goal is to reach 400,000 students from low income families who may be interested in learning programming and other aspects of information technology. Google knows that such charitable efforts may result in future profits if children grow up to become tech startup founders.
Earlier this year, Google invited more than 25 African tech startups to participate in its Launchpad Accelerator program; most of the startups in this initial class are from Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa. Once the Launchpad office is ready to do business from Lagos, more Accelerator events will be held in various African nations. Google has been criticized by some African mobile developers who complain that the company has been slow to allow Google Play merchant registration services in various countries. Without this service, Android developers cannot derive profits from mobile apps they create from Africa. Google is trying to speed up this process at the same time it works with schools to provide technology tools for education.