Tag Archives: Africa

YouTube NextUp: Are you the next big thing on YouTube?

Last year, creators on YouTube generated billions of views daily and earned millions of dollars via our revenue-sharing Partner Program. In addition to teaching individuals how to crochet flowers and apply the perfect lipstick, Africa's top creators also taught people how to have fun.

We believe that the next generation of successful singers, dancers, actors, producers, musicians, and make-up artists are already honing their skills on YouTube , and we want to see more of them take the next step in their YouTube careers and convert their video hobby into a profession or perhaps a small company.

YouTube NextUp was introduced in 2011 to help YouTube creators take their channel to the next level. Over 250 YouTube artists from 15 different countries have benefited from this initiative, which has helped them to enhance their channels and jumpstart a new stage of development on YouTube. From science enthusiasts like AsapSCIENCE, Marcus Butler, MegwinTV, to foodies like Laura Vitale, NextUp has continued to help selected creators become some of YouTube's brightest stars.
We’re thrilled to announce the expansion of the YouTube NextUp program to Sub Saharan Africa, beginning with Nigeria and South Africa. In 2021, 20 creators in Nigeria and South Africa will be selected for the development program, which offers:
  • A spot at a week-long YouTube creator Camp in which they’ll benefit from 1:1 mentoring and learn an array of production techniques from leading industry and YouTube experts
  • A $1,000 voucher for production equipment to help you make your video dreams a reality.
  • Personalized one-on-one support from the YouTube team until April 2022
  • Mentorship by YouTube NextUp grads, plus the opportunity to meet and work with other fast-rising creators. 
  • The opportunity to become better connected with a special community of aspiring and talented content creators from around the world

So who’s next up? We're looking for YouTube creators who are dedicated, passionate, and inspiring, and who fulfill our eligibility criteria, including having a channel with 10,000 to 100,000 subscribers and having posted at least 3 original and native videos in the past three months. .

Full eligibility details, application guidelines and contest rules available at https://events.withgoogle.com/nextup/

We’re excited to see what you’ll come up with next on YouTube!

Posted by Addy Awofisayo, YouTube Content Partnerships, Sub Saharan Africa


Celebrating our first YouTube Festival in Sub-Saharan Africa

Around 500 hours of video are uploaded every minute and over one billion hours of video are watched every day on YouTube. With more than 70% of YouTube videos being watched on mobile devices and 475 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa projected to have mobile internet access by 2025, YouTube provides advertisers with distinct opportunities to connect and reach a growing market of African consumers right where they are.

This is why we recently hosted our first-ever YouTube Festival in Africa. The festival celebrates Africa’s vibrant ecosystem of YouTube creators and advertisers, while providing exclusive first looks at new features, products, and innovations.

The virtual festival, attended by leading advertisers from across Sub-Saharan Africa, was an opportunity to learn about key emerging trends and global best practices. All this in a bid to empower advertisers to learn about all the new ways they can reach engaged audiences on YouTube.

The day's headline announcements included the introduction of YouTube Select and YouTube Audio Ads, which are designed to help marketers target individuals interested in particular content categories and those who use YouTube for ambient listening.

YouTube Select
YouTube Select allows advertisers to place their ads alongside curated content that is most relevant to their brand. Let’s say you manage a smartphone brand aimed at tech savvy millennials. You could have your ads play alongside tech review content, for example.

YouTube’s most popular and relevant content, based on topic, audience, or moment is curated into packages called Lineups. Lineups are designed to achieve popularity, with a focus on top categories and creators across sports, broadcast, beauty and fashion, and popular content.

Lineups give advertisers the confidence that the right people are seeing their ads at the right time. Coupled with the existing YouTube targeting capabilities that advertisers know and use every day, ads can be hyper-personalised.

Audio Ads
Audio is a content format on the rise with people spending 18 hours a week on average listening to music — and 89% of them do so through on-demand streaming. Now advertisers have a new way of reaching these audiences on YouTube, the most popular destination for streaming music.

YouTube Audio Ads is a new format that allows advertisers to reach people using YouTube in the background and those on the free version of YouTube Music. 15-second, non-skippable ads are currently available with more formats coming soon.

Advertisers who have tried it are already seeing great success. More than 75% of measured campaigns are driving a significant lift in brand awareness with an audience that is highly engaged.

This is My YouTube
To shine a spotlight on creators, the festival featured an episode of This is My YouTube. The segment invites advertisers to experience YouTube through the eyes of YouTube creators. We find out what they laugh at, who they cry with, learn from, and escape to — and crucially, how they work with brands to bring relevant products and messaging to their followers.

Content creators play a significant role in influencing purchase behaviour. Research shows that conversions from interest to purchase increase 133% with positive reviews for South African consumers.

Watch our first episode of This is My YouTube with South African YouTube creators Kay Ngonyama and Snikiwe Mhlongo — who, combined, have over 250,000 subscribers.

YouTube + TV
Festival attendees also learned about how YouTube and TV work better together. Today, people watch video content across devices, through different platforms, any time, and anywhere. This change requires advertisers to reach their audiences beyond TV.

Planning on both TV and YouTube provides an opportunity for advertisers to extend their reach even further and drive incremental reach. This is because the consumer journey is not linear. It involves a multitude of touchpoints as a consumer considers a product or service.

While TV has a large reach, research shows that when brands combine both TV and digital as part of their marketing strategy, the return on investment is much larger than the sum of just one medium.

With this consideration, when advertisers craft messaging across both mediums, they’re able to be exactly where their consumers are as they navigate the non-linear consumer journey.

Interestingly, we have found that YouTube as an advertising medium allows advertisers to get TV’s large reach at a much lower cost. And as audiences in Africa, and around the world, consume more content on the platform, why not leverage this screentime as a brand?

A new era for advertising
As the go-to platform for video streaming, YouTube offers an array of curated content for diverse groups of people. Our audience solutions offer a variety of ways for advertisers to reach their valuable audiences.

If you would like to find out more about these YouTube offers, watch the full festival on-demand below.

Posted by Alex Okosi, Managing Director of Emerging Markets, YouTube EMEA

Invitation to apply for the Developers for Africa event

The majority of websites in the world are built using a Content Management System (CMS). This trend is even more pronounced in Africa. And yet many African creators are not entirely happy with the performance, capabilities, privacy and safety options presented by many popular CMS.

Internet users in Africa expect and deserve fast and secure web experiences tailored to their networks and devices, respectful of their privacy and powered by content formats which they are most attuned to. That’s why the Chrome team at Google is partnering with CMS Africa to work with African developers on bridging the gap that is keeping African developers and users from making the most of the Open Web’s promise.

At our 
first Developers For Africa event in April 2021 we got together with top open source CMS experts from Google, Joomla!, WordPress, Typo3, CMS Africa, and Drupal and developers from all over the continent. As a result, several project teams are already working with Google to fine tune their project proposals for funding applications. We invite you to read the post-event report to learn more. 

At the next event on August 18-19 experts from Google, CMS Africa and the world’s leading open source CMS will come together to explore and build out opportunities for African developers to partner with Google, WordPress, Drupal, Joomla! and TYPO3. The main goal is to support Web developers in Africa in generating ideas for creative plugins or partnering with established developers to contribute to the core of their preferred CMS in a way that improves performance, user experience and privacy. We will work with the authors of the most creative and impactful ideas that are within our scope to help them apply for funding and support from Google and our partners.

Whether you are a seasoned web developer or a budding enthusiast we invite you to apply at dfa.cmsafrica.org/apply. And if you feel like this isn’t your profile, but there are folks in your network for whom this would be a good opportunity, help us spread the word! #DFA2021 is awaiting its heroes.

Posted by Andrey Lipattsev, CMS Partnerships EMEA lead


New safety and digital wellbeing options for younger people on YouTube and YouTube Kids

Today, we're announcing additional protections for people under 18 on YouTube and YouTube Kids.

Younger people use YouTube every day to discover new interests, learn about the world, and connect with the world through online video. But it's essential that as they do, they have the options and safeguards to create the experience that's right for them.

Over the years, we’ve made investments to protect kids and families, such as launching a dedicated kids app, introducing new data practices for children’s content, providing more age-appropriate experiences, and giving families more choice with supervised accounts. Today, we're announcing additional protections for people under 18 on YouTube and YouTube Kids.


Updating default privacy settings for younger people
In the coming weeks, we’ll gradually start adjusting the default upload setting to the most private option available for users ages 13-17 on YouTube. With private uploads, content can only be seen by the user and whomever they choose. We want to help younger users make informed decisions about their online footprint and digital privacy, including encouraging them to make an intentional choice if they’d like to make their content public. If the user would like to make their content public, they can change the default upload visibility setting and we’ll provide reminders indicating who can see their video.
Making digital wellbeing features more prominent
We want to give younger users the tools they need to understand their use of technology. In addition to our suite of digital well-being tools, we’ll be turning take a break and bedtime reminders on by default for all users ages 13-17 on YouTube. We’ll also be turning autoplay off by default for these users. If a user decides these aren’t the right digital well-being features for them, they can change their default settings.

We’ll also be adding an autoplay option on YouTube Kids and turning autoplay off by default in the app. Whether you’re driving on a roadtrip with your kids or listening to nursery rhymes together while cooking dinner, we want to empower parents to be able to choose an autoplay setting that’s right for their family. In the coming months, we’ll also be launching additional parental controls in the YouTube Kids app, including the ability for a parent to choose a “locked” default autoplay setting.

Providing safeguards and education about commercial content
We’re also making changes to how we treat commercial content for kids and families. We've never allowed paid product placements in YouTube Kids, our destination for younger kids. In the coming weeks, we’ll also begin to remove overly commercial content from YouTube Kids, such as a video that only focuses on product packaging or directly encourages children to spend money.

On YouTube, we recently updated the disclosures that appear on “made for kids” content or supervised accounts on YouTube when a creator identifies that their video contains paid promotions. Developed in collaboration with child development experts, the disclosures appear in easy-to-understand text and link to a kid-friendly animated video, which provides additional information on paid product placements. We’ve also provided a parent guide which suggests ways for parents to help children understand content they may see on YouTube, including paid product promotions.


We’re introducing these new safety and digital wellbeing options as part of our ongoing efforts to create age-appropriate experiences for young people on YouTube and YouTube Kids. With young people watching online videos to broaden their horizons and expand their learning experiences, we're invested in being the best version of YouTube and YouTube Kids we can be. Young people are our future, and we want to empower them the best we can.

Posted by James Beser, Director of Product Management, Kids and Family


Giving kids and teens a safer experience online

Cross-posted from the Keyword blog

We're committed to building products that are secure by default, private by design, and that put people in control. And while our policies don’t allow kids under 13 to create a standard Google account, we’ve worked hard to design enriching product experiences specifically for them, teens, and families. Through Family Link, we allow parents to set up supervised accounts for their children, set screen time limits, and more. Our Be Internet Awesome digital literacy program helps kids learn how to be safe and engaged digital citizens; and our dedicated YouTube Kids app, Kids Space and teacher approved apps in Play offer experiences that are customized for younger audiences.

Technology has helped kids and teens during the pandemic stay in school through lockdowns and maintain connections with family and friends. As kids and teens spend more time online, parents, educators, child safety and privacy experts, and policy makers are rightly concerned about how to keep them safe. We engage with these groups regularly, and share these concerns.

Some countries are implementing regulations in this area, and as we comply with these regulations, we’re looking at ways to develop consistent product experiences and user controls for kids and teens globally. Today, we’re announcing a variety of new policies and updates:

Giving minors more control over their digital footprint
While we already provide a range of removal options for people using Google Search, children are at particular risk when it comes to controlling their imagery on the internet. In the coming weeks, we’ll introduce a new policy that enables anyone under the age of 18, or their parent or guardian, to request the removal of their images from Google Image results. Of course, removing an image from Search doesn’t remove it from the web, but we believe this change will help give young people more control of their images online.

Tailoring product experiences for kids and teens
Some of our most popular products help kids and teens explore their interests, learn more about the world, and connect with friends. We’re committed to constantly making these experiences safer for them. That’s why in the coming weeks and months we're going to make a number of changes to Google Accounts for people under 18:
  • YouTube: We’re going to change the default upload setting to the most private option available for teens ages 13-17. In addition we’ll more prominently surface digital wellbeing features, and provide safeguards and education about commercial content. Learn more about these changes here.
  • Search: We have a range of systems, tools, and policies that are designed to help people discover content from across the web while not surprising them with mature content they haven’t searched for. One of the protections we offer is SafeSearch, which helps filter out explicit results when enabled and is already on by default for all signed-in users under 13 who have accounts managed by Family Link. In the coming months, we’ll turn SafeSearch on for existing users under 18 and make this the default setting for teens setting up new accounts.
  • Assistant: We’re always working to prevent mature content from surfacing during a child’s experience with Google Assistant on shared devices, and in the coming months we’ll be introducing new default protections. For example, we will apply our SafeSearch technology to the web browser on smart displays.
  • Location History: Location History is a Google account setting that helps make our products more useful. It's already off by default for all accounts, and children with supervised accounts don’t have the option of turning Location History on. Taking this a step further, we’ll soon extend this to users under the age of 18 globally, meaning that Location History will remain off (without the option to turn it on).
  • Play: Building on efforts like content ratings, and our "Teacher-approved apps" for quality kids content, we're launching a new safety section that will let parents know which apps follow our Families policies. Apps will be required to disclose how they use the data they collect in greater detail, making it easier for parents to decide if the app is right for their child before they download it.
  • Google Workspace for Education: As we recently announced, we’re making it much easier for administrators to tailor experiences for their users based on age (such as restricting student activity on YouTube). And to make web browsing safer, K-12 institutions will have SafeSearch technology enabled by default, while switching to Guest Mode and Incognito Mode for web browsing will be turned off by default.

New advertising changes
We’ll be expanding safeguards to prevent age-sensitive ad categories from being shown to teens, and we will block ad targeting based on the age, gender, or interests of people under 18. We’ll start rolling out these updates across our products globally over the coming months. Our goal is to ensure we’re providing additional protections and delivering age-appropriate experiences for ads on Google.

New digital wellbeing tools
In Family Link, parents can set screen time limits and reminders for their kids’ supervised devices. And, on Assistant-enabled smart devices, we give parents control through Digital Wellbeing tools available in the Google Home app. In the coming months, we’ll roll out new Digital Wellbeing filters that allow people to block news, podcasts, and access to webpages on Assistant-enabled smart devices.

On YouTube, we’ll turn on take a break and bedtime reminders and turn off autoplay for users under 18. And, on YouTube Kids we’ll add an autoplay option and turn it off by default to empower parents to make the right choice for their families.
Improving how we communicate our data practices to kids and teens
Data plays an important role in making our products functional and helpful. It’s our job to make it easy for kids and teens to understand what data is being collected, why, and how it is used. Based on research, we’re developing engaging, easy-to-understand materials for young people and their parents to help them better understand our data practices. These resources will begin to roll out globally in the coming months.

Transparency Resources: The Family Link Privacy Guide for Children and Teens and the Teen Privacy Guide

Ongoing work and engagement
We regularly engage with kids and teens, parents, governments, industry leaders, and experts in the fields of privacy, child safety, wellbeing and education to design better, safer products for kids and teens. Having an accurate age for a user can be an important element in providing experiences tailored to their needs. Yet, knowing the accurate age of our users across multiple products and surfaces, while at the same time respecting their privacy and ensuring that our services remain accessible, is a complex challenge. It will require input from regulators, lawmakers, industry bodies, technology providers, and others to address it – and to ensure that we all build a safer internet for kids.

Posted by Mindy Brooks, General Manager, Kids and Families


Mapping Africa’s Buildings with Satellite Imagery

An accurate record of building footprints is important for a range of applications, from population estimation and urban planning to humanitarian response and environmental science. After a disaster, such as a flood or an earthquake, authorities need to estimate how many households have been affected. Ideally there would be up-to-date census information for this, but in practice such records may be out of date or unavailable. Instead, data on the locations and density of buildings can be a valuable alternative source of information.

A good way to collect such data is through satellite imagery, which can map the distribution of buildings across the world, particularly in areas that are isolated or difficult to access. However, detecting buildings with computer vision methods in some environments can be a challenging task. Because satellite imaging involves photographing the earth from several hundred kilometres above the ground, even at high resolution (30–50 cm per pixel), a small building or tent shelter occupies only a few pixels. The task is even more difficult for informal settlements, or rural areas where buildings constructed with natural materials can visually blend into the surroundings. There are also many types of natural and artificial features that can be easily confused with buildings in overhead imagery.

Objects that can confuse computer vision models for building identification (clockwise from top left) pools, rocks, enclosure walls and shipping containers.

In “Continental-Scale Building Detection from High-Resolution Satellite Imagery”, we address these challenges, using new methods for detecting buildings that work in rural and urban settings across different terrains, such as savannah, desert, and forest, as well as informal settlements and refugee facilities. We use this building detection model to create the Open Buildings dataset, a new open-access data resource containing the locations and footprints of 516 million buildings with coverage across most of the African continent. The dataset will support several practical, scientific and humanitarian applications, ranging from disaster response or population mapping to planning services such as new medical facilities or studying human impact on the natural environment.

Model Development
We built a training dataset for the building detection model by manually labelling 1.75 million buildings in 100k images. The figure below shows some examples of how we labelled images in the training data, taking into account confounding characteristics of different areas across the African continent. In rural areas, for example, it was necessary to identify different types of dwelling places and to disambiguate them from natural features, while in urban areas we needed to develop labelling policies for dense and contiguous structures.

(1) Example of a compound containing both dwelling places as well as smaller outbuildings such as grain stores. (2) Example of a round, thatched-roof structure that can be difficult for a model to distinguish from trees, and where it is necessary to use cues from pathways, clearings and shadows to disambiguate. (3) Example of several contiguous buildings for which the boundaries cannot be easily distinguished.

We trained the model to detect buildings in a bottom-up way, first by classifying each pixel as building or non-building, and then grouping these pixels together into individual instances. The detection pipeline was based on the U-Net model, which is commonly used in satellite image analysis. One advantage of U-Net is that it is a relatively compact architecture, and so can be applied to large quantities of imaging data without a heavy compute burden. This is critical, because the final task of applying this to continental-scale satellite imagery means running the model on many billions of image tiles.

Example of segmenting buildings in satellite imagery. Left: Source image; Center: Semantic segmentation, with each pixel assigned a confidence score that it is a building vs. non-building; Right: Instance segmentation, obtained by thresholding and grouping together connected components.

Initial experiments with the basic model had low precision and recall, for example due to the variety of natural and artificial features with building-like appearance. We found a number of methods that improved performance. One was the use of mixup as a regularisation method, where random training images are blended together by taking a weighted average. Though mixup was originally proposed for image classification, we modified it to be used for semantic segmentation. Regularisation is important in general for this building segmentation task, because even with 100k training images, the training data do not capture the full variation of terrain, atmospheric and lighting conditions that the model is presented with at test time, and hence, there is a tendency to overfit. This is mitigated by mixup as well as random augmentation of training images.

Another method that we found to be effective was the use of unsupervised self-training. We prepared a set of 100 million satellite images from across Africa, and filtered these to a subset of 8.7 million images that mostly contained buildings. This dataset was used for self-training using the Noisy Student method, in which the output of the best building detection model from the previous stage is used as a ‘teacher’ to then train a ‘student’ model that makes similar predictions from augmented images. In practice, we found that this reduced false positives and sharpened the detection output. The student model gave higher confidence to buildings and lower confidence to background.

Difference in model output between the student and teacher models for a typical image. In panel (d), red areas are those that the student model finds more likely to be buildings than the teacher model, and blue areas more likely to be background.

One problem that we faced initially was that our model had a tendency to create “blobby” detections, without clearly delineated edges and with a tendency for neighbouring buildings to be merged together. To address this, we applied another idea from the original U-Net paper, which is to use distance weighting to adapt the loss function to emphasise the importance of making correct predictions near boundaries. During training, distance weighting places greater emphasis at the edges by adding weight to the loss — particularly where there are instances that nearly touch. For building detection, this encourages the model to correctly identify the gaps in between buildings, which is important so that many close structures are not merged together. We found that the original U-Net distance weighting formulation was helpful but slow to compute. So, we developed an alternative based on Gaussian convolution of edges, which was both faster and more effective.

Distance weighting schemes to emphasise nearby edges: U-Net (left) and Gaussian convolution of edges (right).

Our technical report has more details on each of these methods.

We evaluated the performance of the model on several different regions across the continent, in different categories: urban, rural, and medium-density. In addition, with the goal of preparing for potential humanitarian applications, we tested the model on regions with displaced persons and refugee settlements. Precision and recall did vary between regions, so achieving consistent performance across the continent is an ongoing challenge.

Precision-recall curves, measured at 0.5 intersection-over-union threshold.

When visually inspecting the detections for low-scoring regions, we noted various causes. In rural areas, label errors were problematic. For example, single buildings within a mostly-empty area can be difficult for labellers to spot. In urban areas, the model had a tendency to split large buildings into separate instances. The model also underperformed in desert terrain, where buildings were hard to distinguish against the background.

We carried out an ablation study to understand which methods contributed most to the final performance, measured in mean average precision (mAP). Distance weighting, mixup and the use of ImageNet pre-training were the biggest factors for the performance of the supervised learning baseline. The ablated models that did not use these methods had a mAP difference of -0.33, -0.12 and -0.07 respectively. Unsupervised self-training gave a further significant boost of +0.06 mAP.

Ablation study of training methods. The first row shows the mAP performance of the best model combined with self-training, and the second row shows the best model with supervised learning only (the baseline). By disabling each training optimization from the baseline in turn, we observe the impact on mAP test performance. Distance weighting has the most significant effect.

Generating the Open Buildings Dataset
To create the final dataset, we applied our best building detection model to satellite imagery across the African continent (8.6 billion image tiles covering 19.4 million km2, 64% of the continent), which resulted in the detection of 516M distinct structures.

Each building’s outline was simplified as a polygon and associated with a Plus Code, which is a geographic identifier made up of numbers and letters, akin to a street address, and useful for identifying buildings in areas that don’t have formal addressing systems. We also include confidence scores and guidance on suggested thresholds to achieve particular precision levels.

The sizes of the structures vary as shown below, tending towards small footprints. The inclusion of small structures is important, for example, to support analyses of informal settlements or refugee facilities.

Distribution of building footprint sizes.

The data is freely available and we look forward to hearing how it is used. In the future, we may add new features and regions, depending on usage and feedback.

This work is part of our AI for Social Good efforts and was led by Google Research, Ghana. Thanks to the co-authors of this work: Wojciech Sirko, Sergii Kashubin, Marvin Ritter, Abigail Annkah, Yasser Salah Edine Bouchareb, Yann Dauphin, Daniel Keysers, Maxim Neumann and Moustapha Cisse. We are grateful to Abdoulaye Diack, Sean Askay, Ruth Alcantara and Francisco Moneo for help with coordination. Rob Litzke, Brian Shucker, Yan Mayster and Michelina Pallone provided valuable assistance with geo infrastructure.

Source: Google AI Blog

Meet the 22 news innovators selected from the 2021 GNI Middle East, Turkey and Africa challenge

During a 14-year career as a journalist, Dina Aboughazala reported on issues impacting people's lives across the Middle East. But she found that many existing news services concentrated on what was happening in big cities, while lesser-known areas were often ignored. To highlight undiscovered voices with interesting stories to tell, last year Aboughazala started the journalism platform Egab.

Egab, which connects journalists from the Middle East and Africa to international media outlets, is one of 22 successful recipients for the Google News Initiative’s second Middle East, Turkey and Africa Innovation Challenge.

It will use the funding to build a platform for contributions. “This means we can empower more local journalists across the Middle East and Africa to tell diverse stories about their communities to global audiences: stories that defy stereotypes, represent our part of the world more fairly and engage more audiences,” Aboughazala says. “We will now be able to do that at a larger scale through the online platform we will be building.”

We launched an open call for applications in February and received 329 applications from 35 countries. A rigorous review, a round of interviews and a final jury selection process followed.

Today, we’re announcing $2.1 million in funding to projects and initiatives in 14 different countries. Recipients include startups and online-only media platforms alongside some of the bigger names in news across the region, and cover topics ranging from audience development to virtual reality storytelling. We placed an emphasis on projects that reflect and demonstrate a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion in the news industry.
Here are just a few of the recipients (you can find the full list on our website):
  • Messenger Reader Revenue: The Standard Group in Kenya is going to integrate bots and Artificial Intelligence (AI) onto a WhatsApp number so that its audience can prompt and interact with it to access news. Via a subscription, the uniquely curated content will feature categories such as farming and investigations.
  • The Citizen Bulletin: Zimbabwe Centre for Media and Information Literacy is building a loyal audience around hyperlocal journalism. The project is an open-source WhatsApp bot for news distribution and audience engagement.
  • Habari RDC: Habari Streaming is a mobile application in the Democratic Republic of Congo that offers subscriptions to videos and podcasts. In a plan to diversify their source of income, Habari RDC created a user experience platform that provides paid content to its users.
  • 263Chat: Radio is the most accessible medium for Zimbabweans. To reach new audiences, 263Chat has established a podcast network to provide an alternative media source.Eco-Nai+: Nigeria’s first digital geo-journalism platform providing access to interactive geo-data through web and mobile applications. 
  • Eco-Nai+:  developed by Richmond Hill Media Limited (Ripples Nigeria), will host environmental data such as on drought, rainfall and erosion, while carefully tracking and making changes to environmental phenomena to help track climate change.

We’ll be following their progress alongside the previous recipients who are already impacting the news ecosystem with initiatives that increase reader engagement and make for a more sustainable future of news.

Posted by Sarah Hartley, Innovation Challenges program manager


YouTube Shorts arrives in Sub Saharan Africa

Last year, we announced that we are building YouTube Shorts, a short-form video experience for anyone who wants to create short, catchy videos using nothing but their mobile phones. Since then, we’ve expanded our beta to 26 more countries and have already seen many creative, awesome Shorts from our community.

We’re excited to share today that YouTube Shorts is going global. We’re now rolling out our beta across more than 100 countries around the world where YouTube is available, including in countries in Sub Saharan Africa.
We plan to introduce more features as we continue to build Shorts alongside creators and artists. Here’s an update on what to expect from YouTube Shorts as it rolls out in your country.

Unlocking a new playground of creativity
Creation is at the core of short-form video, and we want to make it easy and fun to create Shorts. While short form videos were already viewable in the platform, users around the world will be able to access for the first time Shorts’ creation tools which include a multi-segment camera to string multiple video clips together, the ability to record with music, control speed settings, and more.

Users will also have the ability to sample audio from videos across YouTube - which includes billions of videos worldwide - unlocking a new playground of creativity like never before. This means you can give your own creative spin on the content you love to watch on YouTube and help find it a new audience — whether it’s reacting to your favorite jokes, trying your hand at a creator’s latest recipe, or re-enacting comedic skits. Creators will be in control and will be able to opt out if they don’t want their long form video remixed.

In addition, and timed with the product’s international expansion, we’re bringing a new set of features to existing and new markets such as:
  • Add text to specific points in your video

  • Sample audio from other Shorts to remix into your own creation

  • Automatically add captions to your Short

  • Record up to 60 seconds with the Shorts camera

  • Add clips from your phone’s gallery to add to your recordings made with the Shorts camera

  • Add basic filters to color correct your Shorts, with more effects to come in the future

We’ve worked alongside our music partners to make sure artists and creators have a large library of songs to use in their Shorts. As we launch our beta internationally, we’ll have millions of songs (and growing) and music catalogs from over 250 labels and publishers around the world, including Universal Music Group’s labels and publishing companies, Sony Music Entertainment and Sony Music Publishing, Warner Music Group and Warner Chappell Music, Believe, Merlin, Because Music, Beggars, Kobalt and more.

Stay tuned for more creation tools rolling out in the future as we continue to build Shorts.

Delivering a seamless viewing experience across YouTube
We know that creation is only one part of the Shorts experience. We also want to help people find Shorts to enjoy and help creators get discovered. We’ve introduced a row on the YouTube homepage especially for Shorts, have launched a new watch experience that lets you easily swipe vertically from one video to the next, and have added a Shorts tab on mobile that makes it easier for you to watch Shorts with a single tap.

We’re also exploring how to deepen your connection with Shorts content, creators, and artists you’re most interested in by integrating it with the YouTube you already know and love. For instance, if you hear a snippet of a song on Shorts, you can easily find the full song, watch the music video, or learn more about the artist —all on YouTube. And it works both ways. Tap the create button right from a video to make your own Short with that audio, or check out how others are using it on Shorts.

As more people create and watch Shorts, we expect that our systems will get even better, improving our ability to help you discover new content, trends, and creators you’ll love.

Supporting mobile creators

YouTube has helped an entire generation of creators turn their creativity into businesses and become the next generation media companies. Over the last three years, we’ve paid more than $30 billion to creators, artists, and media companies.

Shorts is a new way to watch and create on YouTube, so we’ve been taking a fresh look at what it means to monetize Shorts and reward creators for their content. We are deeply committed to supporting the next generation of mobile creators with Shorts, and are actively working on what monetization options will look like in the future.

As our first step in this journey, we recently introduced the YouTube Shorts Fund, a $100M fund distributed over the course of 2021-2022. We’ll share additional details, including what countries the fund will be available in, as we get closer to launching the fund.

The Shorts beta will be available to everybody by Wednesday, July 14th. We know that it will take us time to get this right, but we can't wait for you to try Shorts and help us build a first-class short-form video experience right on YouTube.


How we’re supporting 14 new AI for Social Good projects in Sub Saharan Africa

Over recent years, we have seen remarkable progress in AI’s ability to confront new problems and help solve old ones. Google has supported AI to advance African goals by establishing a Google AI research center in Accra, Ghana, supporting Google Africa Ph.D Fellowships and funding the development of an African Master’s in Machine Intelligence at the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences. We’ve seen this work have significant impact, from the strong progress of Google AI Impact Challenge grantee Makerere University’s air quality monitoring technology to Google Accra lab’s CropNet, an AI model for cassava disease detection.

In our continued commitment to advance AI to address pressing problems in Sub Saharan Africa, we are happy to announce fourteen new projects supported through our AI for Social Good program.

Our lab in India has worked towards advancing AI research that could make a positive social impact on traditionally underserved communities. We reported on the impact of six such projects in India in 2020. We are seeing tremendous potential to positively impact lives through collaborations between NGOs and Academics, supported and enabled by Google.

Working in partnership with Google.org and Google’s University Relations program, our goal is to help academics and nonprofits advance AI research that can improve people’s lives and environmental health in Sub Saharan Africa.

As part of the application process, Googlers ran meetings involving Academic and NGO teams to discuss potential projects. Following the workshop meetings, project teams made up of NGOs and academics submitted proposals which Google experts reviewed. The result is an extremely promising range of projects spanning 10 countries across Sub-Saharan Africa including Uganda, Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa and Ghana — focused on agriculture, conservation and public health.

Each project team will receive funding, technical contributions from Google, access to computational resources and other forms of regular support to make their projects successful. Academics in this program will be recognized as “Impact Scholars” for their contributions towards advancing research for social good.

In Agriculture, this includes AI research for pastoralists to manage their rangelands and pastures more efficiently to automating local market advisory for farmers. In Conservation, we are backing projects that research news ways towards animal poaching monitoring and predict the risk of deforestation. In Public Health, we are supporting research to improve vaccine allocation and improve maternal health programs through engagement on health information programs.

Congratulations to all the recipients of this round’s support. We’re looking forward to continuing to nurture the AI for Social Good community, bringing together experts from diverse backgrounds with the common goal of advancing AI to improve lives around the world.

Posted by: Milind Tambe (Director “AI for Social Good”, Google Research India)


Supporting startups and SMEs in Africa

The Internet is playing a key role in Africa's economic transition, generating new possibilities and paving the path for economic and social growth. According to a 2020 report, Africa’s Internet economy is expected to contribute nearly $189 billion to the continent’s overall GDP by 2025, rising to $712 billion by 2050. At Google, we recognize the immense potential of the ecosystem's key players, and we remain steadfast in our commitment to developing targeted programs that assist them in accessing technical and financial assistance to support them in developing technologies that will benefit everyone.

Today we're excited to announce new initiatives that reaffirm our commitment to African startups, and extend our support for underserved communities. The programs, which include a $3 million USD Black Founders Fund for African startups and a $3 million USD Google.org grant to help low-income communities develop entrepreneurial skills and funding, will help Black founders grow their businesses not only by providing capital but also by providing access to the best of Google resources. We're also welcoming 15 companies from across the continent to the sixth class of our Google for Startups Accelerator: Africa program.

Google for Startups Black Founders Fund Africa
Between 2020 and 2021, more African companies completed more funding rounds than in any prior year, with transactions rising by almost 50%. While remarkable, this achievement is not translating to the same level of success for Black founders on the continent. Research shows that African founded startups find it difficult to secure financial support, and are faced with insufficient starting capital, a lack of angel investors and more.

Last year we announced the Google for Startups Black Founders Fund as part of a series of racial equity commitments to close the funding gap and empower Black entrepreneurs in the US, Brazil and Europe. Given the proven success of the Black Founders Fund around the world, we are expanding the program with the first $3M Black Founders Fund in Africa.

The Google for Startups Black Founders Fund Africa provides grants and technical assistance to early-stage startups led by black and diverse teams, or with a goal of advancing the Black community. This $3M non-dilutive fund will be allocated across a pipeline of 50 investable startups in Africa, with each firm receiving up to $100,000 in cash awards. Each selected company will also receive $220,000 in Google Cloud Credits and Ad Grants, as well as mentoring, technical and scaling assistance from the best of Google. The equity-free fund is available to entrepreneurs developing for Africa, on the continent.

We have partnered with the Co-Creation Hub, a Google for Startups partner and leading tech community hub with presence in Nigeria, Kenya and Rwanda, to distribute the funding to the 50 selected companies across Africa.

Applications are open from today until July 7th and eligible startups can visit goo.gle/BFFAfrica now to apply.

$3 million USD Google.org grant

Beyond the tech startup scene, there are entrepreneurs tackling day-to-day problems on a smaller, but equally significant scale. Our commitment in the region extends to these groups too. Studies indicate that entrepreneurship is essential for unlocking the essential economic benefits that Africa needs to prosper in a post-pandemic environment via employment and wealth development. However, not all entrepreneurs have the resources or know-how to run successful businesses, with women entrepreneurs being at a greater risk of having companies that are the most impacted by the epidemic.

Women entrepreneurs must have access to knowledge, skills, tools, and funding in order to reach their full potential.

Since 2017, Google.org through a $20M commitment has prioritized funding to nonprofit organizations that support access to economic opportunity for women in Sub-Saharan Africa. We recognize that, alongside financing, bespoke learning solutions and mentoring programs are required for accelerating women-led companies.

This is why Google.org is giving $3M to the Tony Elumelu Foundation, who through their annual entrepreneurship program will provide entrepreneurship training, mentorship, coaching and access to networks and key markets for at least 5000 women, as well as seed capital in the form of one-time cash grants to 500 African female informal business-owners in rural and low-income communities across Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya and select Francophone countries. We believe this will enable and prepare these women who otherwise wouldn’t have had the opportunity to navigate their independent businesses journey through the critical start-up and early growth phase.


Google for Startups Accelerator: Africa

We introduced the Google for Startups Accelerator: Africa program in 2018 to support the startup ecosystem, and have so far supported 67 startups from 17 African countries who have collectively raised $72M and created 2800 direct jobs.

This year, we selected 15 high-potential startups to join our most diverse class yet, with 47% women cofounders from across seven countries and seven sectors. These companies are using technology to build exciting products and solve some of Africa’s biggest challenges, with massive potential to contribute to the billion dollar Africa internet economy GDP. We are proud to introduce our sixth class of Google for Startups Accelerator: Africa to you today:
  1. Angaza Elimu (Kenya): an Education technology startup delivering quality and relevant education on demand using AI.
  2. Chekkit (Nigeria): A patented consumer intelligence, engagement & loyalty software-as-a-service for authentication, and tracking and tracing of consumer goods and pharmaceutical products.
  3. Emergency Response Africa (Nigeria): A healthcare technology startup connecting first responders and verified emergency-ready hospitals to emergency victims.
  4. Envisionit Deep AI (South Africa): RADIFY is the AI product developed by Envisionit Deep AI that detects and highlights abnormalities across medical diagnostic images.
  5. GeroCare (Nigeria): A cloud-based hospital that enables individuals to provide regular home medical care for their elderly loved ones.
  6. Khula! (South Africa): An ecosystem of digital platforms (mobile and web) that exist to make the agricultural value chain more efficient & fair.
  7. Ndovu (Kenya): A micro-investment platform providing access to financial markets, financial literacy and tools to diversify financial risk.
  8. Nguvu Health (Nigeria): Preventive and Corrective Tech for mental health
  9. OneHealth (Nigeria): A digital-first pharmacy and healthcare platform, leveraging technology to provide access to medicines, information and healthcare providers.
  10. PayWay Ethiopia (Ethiopia): With its fully functional payment technologies, PayWay is digitizing payments in Ethiopia.
  11. Tabiri Analytics Inc (Rwanda): Comprehensive and automated cyber security as a service for enterprises in the underserved markets.
  12. Tendo (Ghana): Tendo enables anyone in Africa to sell online with zero capital investment.
  13. Third.Design (Tunisia): A software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform that helps individuals easily design 3D immersive experiences.
  14. Vittas International (Nigeria): A tech-enabled financing platform that extends credit to healthcare SMEs in Nigeria.
  15. Whoosh (South Africa): A digital payments solution enabling merchants and businesses to expand online.
The programs we're launching today are essential to our efforts to create platforms and initiatives that will aid in the development of Africa's digital economy. We are thrilled to be a part of this story.

Posted by Nitin Gajria, Managing Director, Google Africa & Rowan Barnett, Head of Google.org EMEA