Editor’s note: Today at Google for Africa, Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced a $1 billion investment in Africa over five years to cover a range of initiatives, from improved connectivity to investments in startups. Below is an edited transcript of his remarks. Watch the full event above or on YouTube.
There is so much momentum happening across Africa, and we’re excited to showcase it at our first Google for Africa event.
Of course, there are also significant challenges. The pandemic continues to deeply impact communities across the continent and around the world. I hope everyone is taking care during these difficult times.
One thing we’ve seen is how technology can be a lifeline, whether you are a parent seeking information to keep your family healthy, a student learning virtually or an entrepreneur connecting with new customers and markets. Being helpful in these moments is at the core of our mission: to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.
Expanding opportunity through technology is deeply personal to me. That’s because I grew up without much access to it. Every new technology — from the rotary phone to the television — changed my family’s life for the better. That’s why I’m a technology optimist. I believe in how people can harness it for good.
I see so many examples across Africa today, whether it’s startups like Tambua Health that are using machine learning to help doctors diagnose and treat diseases, or entrepreneurs like Tunji, whom I had the chance to meet when I was in Lagos in 2017. His company, Gidi Mobile, is helping low-income students in Nigeria access online learning.
Sundar Pichai and Gidi Mobile’s Tunji Adegbesan at Google for Nigeria in 2017
Increasingly we are seeing innovation begin in Africa, and then spread throughout the world. For example, people in Africa were among the first to access the internet through a phone rather than a computer. And mobile money was ubiquitous in Kenya before it was adopted by the world.
This momentum will only increase as 300 million people come online in Africa over the next five years. Many of them are young, creative and entrepreneurial, and they’re ready to drive new innovation and opportunity across the region.
It’s been incredible to see the rapid pace of change in a short amount of time, and be a partner on that journey. Since we opened our first offices in Africa, we’ve enabled 100 million Africans to access the internet for the first time and empowered millions of businesses and creators with digital tools.
A big focus has been on expanding opportunity through digital skills. In 2017, we committed to help 10 million Africans get the digital skills they need to grow their careers and businesses. So far, we’ve trained six million people. We’ve also trained 80,000 developers from every country in Africa and supported more than 80 startups to raise global venture capital funding, creating thousands of jobs.
In 2018, we opened an artificial intelligence research center in Accra. The team is focused on solving challenges relevant to Africa and the world, like using AI to map buildings that are hard to detect using traditional tools and adding 200,000 kilometers of roads on Google Maps.
And we continue to build for Africa’s unique needs. Products like Android Go and Files Go ensure that everyone can have a great smartphone experience. On YouTube, we are supporting Black creators and artists with our Black Voices Fund.
These are just a few examples of how we're investing in, and building for, Africa. We know there’s more we can do to help bring the benefits of technology to more Africans.
So today I'm excited to announce that we plan to invest one billion dollars in Africa over five years. It will cover a range of initiatives, from improving connectivity to investing in startups.
These investments will support the continent’s digital transformation in four key areas:
- Enabling affordable access and building products for every kind of African user.
- Helping businesses with their digital transformation.
- Investing in entrepreneurs to spur next-generation technologies.
- Supporting nonprofits working to improve lives across Africa.
As we make these investments, we know we can’t do this alone. We look forward to partnering with African governments, policymakers, educators, entrepreneurs and businesses. We have so much opportunity ahead as Africans shape the next wave of innovation. Thank you for the chance to be a part of it.