Tag Archives: Google in Africa

Telling powerful African stories through color

African culture is joyful, expressive and vivid, and intrinsically linked to color – from rallying shades of liberation to evocative hues of optimism, color is embraced as an unspoken language. With a vibrant palette and gift for storytelling, as Africans, we tell powerful stories through color, and it is this unique phenomenon that led to the development of the ‘Colors of Africa’ project. This ambitious initiative shares stories from Africa by Africans.

Design Indaba collaborated with Google Arts & Culture on this brand-new, cross-continental project. In order to tell the full story of such a diverse continent, we approached 60 African creatives and asked them each to create a unique work that depicts their home country through the symbolism of color.

At the same time we asked what being African meant to them. The resulting works and thoughts offer personal insights into African lived experience and add the ever evolving kaleidoscope that is the African continent.

The stories of each creative have been woven into a colorful tapestry which is available on Google Arts & Culture. And this bespoke, online exhibit dives into the artist’s experience of their country – as well as navigating the intricacies of life as an African. In addition to the exhibits, you can spin the kaleidoscope to explore and collect the colors of Africa. Experience the different countries and travel through Africa guided by the eyes of local artists.

Each work is a personal and completely unique experience of a country. Discover some of the colors of Africa below:

I invite you to discover more about each artist and artwork on the dedicated hub on Google Arts & Culture, or travel through the kaleidoscope here and share your colors with the world.

How Scrolla is making news more accessible to South Africans

Editor’s note from Ludovic Blecher, Head of Google News Initiative Innovation:The GNI Innovation Challengeprogram, is designed to stimulate forward-thinking ideas for the news industry. The story below by Mungo Soggot, CEO of Scrolla, is part of an innovator seriessharing inspiring stories and lessons from funded projects.

The costs associated with paying for mobile phone data in many African countries are often incredibly high, making it prohibitive for lower income readers to access news. As our mission is to bring high quality news on mobile phones to underserved communities, we set out to create a new product for Scrolla.Africa which is light on data use. The new platform is called Scrolla Data Lite.

Our core readers are pay-as-you-go mobile users, who make up about 75% of the market in South Africa. We found that people on these expensive pay-as-you-go data services were extremely cautious about downloading anything or surfing online. So beyond using data for messaging services, the idea of browsing on mobiles for news is regarded as a privilege.

As a mobile-only investigative and political reporting outlet, we were operating on a shoestring budget when we launched, so the data use issue was not something we had the technical capacity to address. We decided it had to wait until we had evolved the prototype and our editorial colleagues — Everson Luhanga and Phillip van Niekerk — had established Scrolla’s editorial ethos.

Our big break came when we were selected for the Google News Initiative Innovation Challenge for the Middle East, Turkey and Africa in 2021. We had a rough outline of how we would design a separate “Data Lite” site, which we used as the basis for our application. The Data Lite site doesn’t contain video or audio, and has stripped back features allowing for faster scrolling. The goals were to compress stories and images as much as possible and to automate the process so that our small team didn’t have to learn a new Content Management System (CMS). As a recipient of funding, we could build a Data Lite site far quicker and better than would have otherwise been possible, and bring in external engineering expertise to design the new platform.

The site ended up saving readers 90% on the data costs of our “full fat” site, when we compare the 100 kilobytes on page downloads on Data Lite to our usual 1 megabyte. And this meant the Data Lite site gave us about a sixfold increase in traffic compared with the full data site. We couldn’t use video or audio on the new Data Lite site, which remains its only drawback. When it came to images, we gave the editorial team strict guidelines to minimize data use without compromising user experience. This left room for error, so we then built in additional automated safeguards which ensured that uploaded images didn’t risk leaving readers with a spike in data costs.

Alongside data costs, language is an additional barrier in South Africa, so we publish in Zulu as well as English. Crucially, the GNI funding allowed us to design a system where we could include our Zulu content, together with English (a second language in South Africa), on one platform. The site had to be super easy to navigate and allow users to toggle between English and Zulu.

Picture shows a screen grab from the Zulu language mobile phone app.

A screengrab of the Scrolla app featuring the Zulu language.

The biggest lesson we learned is it’s impossible to underestimate what a big deal these data costs are: to the extent that many readers are wary of downloading apps or touching the sort of advertisements which typically require a lot of data such as those with video. The GNI enabled us to build the site, and we're open to sharing the technology with other like-minded publications in Africa and beyond.

How AI is helping African communities and businesses

Editor’s note: Last week Google hosted the annual Google For Africa eventas part of our commitment to make the internet more useful in Africa, and to support the communities and businesses that will power Africa’s economic growth. This commitment includes our investment in research. Since announcing the Google AI Research Center in Accra, Ghanain 2018, we have made great strides in our mission to use AI for societal impact. In May we made several exciting announcements aimed at expanding these commitments.

Yossi Matias, VP of Engineering and Research, who oversees research in Africa, spoke with Jeff Dean, SVP of Google Research, who championed the opening of the AI Research Center, about the potential of AI in Africa.

Jeff: It's remarkable how far we've come since we opened the center in Accra. I was excited then about the talented pool of researchers in Africa. I believed that by bringing together leading researchers and engineers, and collaborating with universities and the wider research community, we could push the boundaries of AI to solve critical challenges on the continent. It’s great to see progress on many fronts, from healthcare and education to agriculture and the climate crisis.

As part of Google For Africa last week, I spoke with Googlers across the continent about recent research and met several who studied at African universities we partner with. Yossi, from your perspective, how does our Research Center in Accra support the wider research ecosystem and benefit from it?

Yossi: I believe that nurturing local talent and working together with the community are critical to our mission. We've signed research agreements with five universities in Africa to conduct joint research, and I was fortunate to participate in the inauguration of the African Master of Machine Intelligence (AMMI) program, of which Google is a founding partner. Many AMMI graduates have continued their studies or taken positions in industry, including at our Accra Research Center where we offer an AI residency program. We've had three cohorts of AI residents to date.

Our researchers in Africa, and the partners and organizations we collaborate with, understand the local challenges best and can build and implement solutions that are helpful for their communities.

Jeff: For me, the Open Buildings initiative to map Africa's built environment is a great example of that kind of collaborative solution. Can you share more about this?

Yossi: Absolutely. The Accra team used satellite imagery and machine learning to detect more than half a billion distinct structures and made the dataset available for public use. UN organizations, governments, non-profits, and startups have used the data for various applications, such as understanding energy needs for urban planning and managing the humanitarian response after a crisis. I'm very proud that we are now scaling this technology to countries outside of Africa as well.

Jeff: That's a great achievement. It's important to remember that the solutions we build in Africa can be scalable and useful globally. Africa has the world's youngest population, so it's essential that we continue to nurture the next generation of tech talent.

We must also keep working to make information accessible for this growing, diverse population. I’m proud of our efforts to use machine translation breakthroughs to bring more African languages online. Several languages were added to Google translate this year, including Bambara, Luganda, Oromo and Sepedi, which are spoken by a combined 85 million people. My mom spoke fluent Lugbara from our time living in Uganda when I was five—Lugbara didn't make the set of languages added in this round, but we're working on it!

Yossi: That's just the start. Conversational technologies also have exciting educational applications that could help students and businesses. We recently collaborated with job seekers to build the Interview Warmup Tool, featured at the Google For Africa event, which uses machine learning and large language models to help job seekers prepare for interviews.

Jeff: Yossi, what’s something that your team is focused on now that you believe will have a profound impact on African society going forward?

Yossi: Climate and sustainability is a big focus and technology has a significant role to play. For example, our AI prediction models can accurately forecast floods, one of the deadliest natural disasters. We're collaborating with several countries and organizations across the continent to scale this technology so that we can alert people in harm's way.

We're also working with local partners and startups on sustainability projects including reducing carbon emissions at traffic lights and improving food security by detecting locust outbreaks, which threaten the food supply and livelihoods of millions of people. I look forward to seeing many initiatives scale as more communities and countries get on board.

Jeff: I'm always inspired by the sense of opportunity in Africa. I'd like to thank our teams and partners for their innovation and collaboration. Of course, there’s much more to do, and together we can continue to make a difference.

How mapping the world’s buildings makes a difference

In Lamwo district, in northern Uganda, providing access to electricity is a challenge. In a country where only about 24% of the population has a power supply to their home from the national grid, the rate in Lamwo is even lower. This is partly due to lack of information: The government doesn’t have precise data about where settlements are located, what types of buildings there are, and what the buildings’ electricity needs might be. And canvassing the area isn’t practical, because the roads require four-wheel-drive vehicles and are impassable in the rain.

Ernest Mwebaze leads Sunbird AI, a Ugandan nonprofit that uses data technology for social good. They’re assessing areas in Lamwo district to support planning at the Ministry of Energy in Uganda. “There are large areas to plan for,” explains Ernest. “Even when you’re there on the ground, it’s difficult to get an overall sense of where all the buildings are and what is the size of each settlement. Currently people have to walk long distances just to charge their phones.”

To help with their analysis, Ernest’s team have been using Google’s Open Buildings. An open-access dataset project based on satellite imagery pinpointing the locations and geometry of buildings across Africa, Open Buildings allows the team to study the electrification needs, and potential solutions, at a level of detail that was previously impossible.

Our research center in Ghana led the development of the Open Buildings project to support policy planning for the areas in the world with the biggest information gaps. We created it by applying artificial intelligence methods to satellite imagery to identify the locations and outlines of buildings.

Since we released the data, we’ve heard from many organizations — including UN agencies, nonprofits and academics — who have been using it:

  • The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, has been using Open Buildings for survey sampling. It’s common to do household surveys in regions where people have been displaced, in order to know what people need. But UNHCR needs to first have an assessment of where the households actually are, which is where the Open Buildings project has been useful.
  • UN Habitat is using Open Buildings to study urbanization across the African continent. Having detail on the way that cities are laid out enables them to make recommendations on urban planning.
  • The International Energy Agency is using Open Buildings to estimate energy needs. With data about individual buildings, they can assess the needs of communities at a new level of precision and know how much energy is needed for cooking, lighting and for operating machinery. This will help with planning sustainable energy policy.

We’re excited to make this information available in more countries and to assist more organizations in their essential work. As Ernest says, “By providing decision makers with better data, they can make better decisions. Geographical data is particularly important for providing an unbiased source of information for planning basic services, and we need more of it.”

Delivering on our $1B commitment in Africa

Last year our CEO, Sundar Pichai, announced that Google would invest $1 billion in Africa over the next five years to support a range of initiatives, from improved connectivity to investment in startups, to help boost Africa’s digital transformation.

Africa’s internet economy has the potential to grow to $180 billion by 2025 – 5.2% of the continent’s GDP. To support this growth, over the last year we’ve made progress on helping to enable affordable access and on building products for every African user – helping businesses build their online presence, supporting entrepreneurs spur next-generation technologies, and helping nonprofits to improve lives across the continent.

We’d like to share how we’re delivering on our commitment and partnering with others – policymakers, non-profits, businesses and creators – to make the internet more useful to more people in Africa.

Introducing the first Google Cloud region in Africa

Today we’re announcing our intent to establish a Google Cloud region in South Africa – our first on the continent. South Africa will be joining Google Cloud’s global network of 35 cloud regions and 106 zones worldwide.

The future cloud region in South Africa will bring Google Cloud services closer to our local customers, enabling them to innovate and securely deliver faster, more reliable experiences to their own customers, helping to accelerate their growth. According to research by AlphaBeta Economics for Google Cloud, the South Africa cloud region will contribute more than a cumulative USD 2.1 billion to the country’s GDP, and will support the creation of more than 40,000 jobs by 2030.

Image shows Director for Cloud in Africa, Niral Patel, next to a heading that announces Google's intent to establish its first Cloud region in Africa

Niral Patel, Director for Cloud in Africa announces Google's intention to establish Google's first Cloud region in Africa

Along with the cloud region, we are expanding our network through the Equiano subsea cable and building Dedicated Cloud Interconnect sites in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Lagos and Nairobi. In doing so, we are building full scale Cloud capability for Africa.

Supporting African entrepreneurs

We continue to support African entrepreneurs in growing their businesses and developing their talent. Our recently announced second cohort of the Black Founders Fund builds on the success of last year’s cohort, who raised $97 million in follow-on funding and have employed more than 500 additional staff since they were selected. We’re also continuing our support of African small businesses through the Hustle Academy and Google Business Profiles, and helping job seekers learn skills through Developer Scholarships and Career Certifications.

We’ve also continued to support nonprofits working to improve lives in Africa, with a $40 million cash and in-kind commitment so far. Over the last year this has included:

  • $1.5M investment in Career Certifications this year bringing our total Google.org funding to more than $3M since 2021
  • A $3 million grant to support AirQo in expanding their work monitoring air quality from Kampala to ten cities in five countries on the continent;
  • A team of Googlers who have joined the Tony Elumelu Foundation for 6 months, full-time and pro-bono. The team helped build a new training web and app interface to support the next million African entrepreneurs to grow and fund their businesses.

Across all our initiatives, we continue to work closely with our partners – most recently with the UN to launch the Global Africa Business Initiative (GABI), aimed at accelerating Africa’s economic growth and sustainable development.

Building more helpful products for Africa

We recently announced plans to open the first African product development centre in Nairobi. The centre will develop and build better products for Africans and the world.

Today, we’re launching voice typing support for nine more African languages (isiNdebele, isiXhosa, Kinyarwanda, Northern Sotho, Swati, Sesotho, Tswana, Tshivenda and Xitsonga) in Gboard, the Google keyboard – while 24 new languages are now supported on Google Translate, including Lingala, which is spoken by more than 45 million people across Central Africa.

To make Maps more useful, Street View imagery in Kenya, South Africa, Senegal and Nigeria has had a refresh with nearly 300,000 more kilometres of imagery now helping people virtually explore and navigate neighbourhoods. We’re also extending the service to Rwanda, meaning that Street View is now available in 11 African countries.

In addition to expanding the AI Accra Research Centre earlier this year, theOpen Buildings Project, which mapped buildings across the African continent using machine learning and satellite imagery, is expanding to South and Southeast Asia and is a great example of the AI centre creating solutions for Africa that are useful across the world.

Delivering on our promise

We remain committed to working with our partners in building for Africa together, and helping to unlock the benefits of the digital economy for more people by providing useful products, programmes and investments. We’re doing this by partnering with African organisations, businesses and entrepreneurs. It’s the talent and drive of the individuals in the countries, communities and businesses of Africa that will power Africa’s economic growth.

Source: Translate


Helping AI startups grow in Africa

In 2016, Dr. Anicia Peters discovered a problem. Dr. Peters, a researcher with the University of Namibia and chairperson of the Presidential Task Force on the Fourth Industrial Revolution, noticed that machine learning (ML) startups were not able to grow or shift quickly enough. She believed that early career, self-taught techmakers in the field lacked the necessary breadth and design fundamentals to successfully launch their businesses.

Dr. Peters saw a need to teach these fundamentals in a way that would be shareable across the region. The University of Namibia needed to develop a course that would address the need for African AI expertise and, therefore, the needs of these startups. However, that would require funding.

In 2020, Dr. Peters learned of Google’s new pilot funding program, the Award for Inclusion Research Program (AIR), managed by the University Relations team within Google Research. They had an open call for applications. Dr. Peters believed securing funding and mentorship from Google's AIR pilot program would help maximize the impact of the AI startups, break down barriers and bridge connections.

“You have to start small, so it's hard to convince funders who are looking for big numbers,” Peters says. “You know, how many people are you going to be impacting? Namibia has few people compared to other countries.” However, Google’s AIR program saw the potential for immediate and long-term impact and selected Dr. Peters for the award.

The funding enabled her to hire a staff member to manage the day-to-day operations of the program. This allowed her team to focus their work on social justice, specifically on inclusion, and ethics, increasing the numbers of African developers and ensuring anyone in Africa could access the resources needed to train as a developer. This funding helped secure these resources and meant they could invite experts to virtually teach, share knowledge and collaborate. “That’s part of what Google does through the University Relations program,” Peters adds. “They enable African university research and tech development.”

Dr. Peters had big plans to expand this project to other countries across Africa. Thanks to the relationships established through the AIR grant, she secured an additional Google research grant and recruited additional staff members to help with expansion. This expansion allowed the University of Namibia, which has a strong focus on agriculture, to develop AI technologies in partnership with their agricultural department.

“At one stage I was saying – Google if you want to come and help us, in Africa, then you have to join hands with those of us on the continent,” Peters says. “And I think that for me, this is one of the main messages: that now we are really walking the path together. That, for me, is very important. It's the beginning of great things to come."

Google is currently accepting applications for the Award for Inclusion Research Program. Applications close July 13, 2022 at 11:59pm coordinated universal time (UTC-12).

How tech can support transformational growth in Africa

This week, I was privileged to be in Kigali, Rwanda for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (‘CHOGM’) - a forum that brings together government, business leaders and NGOs from around the world to discuss how to improve the lives of the over 2.5 billion people living in the 54 independent countries that make up the Commonwealth.

Africa is facing multiple challenges. While Covid was first and foremost a health crisis, the economic impact continues to be severe for parts of the continent. The war in Ukraine has added further pressure on supply chains and food security. And Africa’s rapid population growth - 60% of the population will be under 24 by 2025 - creates a further pressing need to generate economic opportunity and ensure people and families can earn a living.

Despite the challenges ahead, the mood at CHOGM was optimistic, focusing on the collaboration and solutions that can help Africa’s economic recovery. For me, harnessing technology is key to that.

I grew up in Zimbabwe, then a Commonwealth country, and discovered the possibilities of the world of programming as a highschooler. Since then I’ve always been fascinated by the role technology can play in creating opportunities and helping to solve large-scale societal problems. My position at Google allows me to focus on how technology can benefit society, and I feel fortunate that it’s taken me back to Africa after just five months in the role.

Google first bet on Africa with the investment in Seacom cable in about 2005: I remember hearing about it from my friends at Google at the time. Two years later, Google opened offices on the continent, and has been a partner in Africa’s economic growth and digital transformation ever since - working with local governments, policymakers, educators and entrepreneurs. Our mission in Africa is to unlock the benefits of the digital economy to everyone - providing helpful products, programmes and investments.

Africa’s internet economy has the potential to grow to $180 billion by 2025 - 5.2% of the continent’s GDP - bringing prosperity, opportunity and growth. African governments and businesses must turn that opportunity into a reality: integrating technology into the economy, ensuring no one is left behind, and emerging stronger from the current challenges.

Ensuring affordable internet access

Most crucial to this is affordable internet access - a precondition for digital transformation, but still a barrier today. Across Africa, only 18% of households have an internet connection, and data costs remain a major obstacle. By actively promoting infrastructure investments, including in rural areas, Governments can support people to get online and harness the economic growth and benefits that will come with that.

Google is already working in partnership with African governments to do this. We’ve enabled over 100 million Africans to access the internet for the first time through our affordable Android devices, and plan to invest $1 billion over the next 5 years in projects that will help enable Africa’s digital transformation, including our state-of-the-art Equiano subsea cable.

The cable, which lands in Namibia in the next few weeks, will provide twenty times more network capacity by connecting Africa with Europe. It will run through South Africa, Namibia, Togo, Nigeria and St Helena, enabling internet speeds up to five times faster and lowering connectivity costs by up to 21%, in turn supporting growth and jobs.

Investing in people

Those accessing the internet need to be able to use it and transform their lives leveraging it. Working with tech companies and NGOs to foster digital skills developments, governments can ensure people can participate fully online.

Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, made a commitment in 2017 to train 10 million Africans in digital skills. To date, Google has trained more than 6 million people across Africa through Grow with Google in partnership with local governments, and given $20 million to non-profits helping Africans develop their digital skills. Moreover, Google has committed to certifying 100,000 developers - and so far has certified more than 80,000. Last year, a Google study showed the developer ecosystem in Africa is growing. There are nearly 716,000 professional developers across Africa - of which 21% are women; numbers we hope to contribute to.

Investing in startups

Alongside digital skills, governments need to encourage entrepreneurs and startups - a crucial part of Africa’s economic growth and jobs creation. There has never been a shortage of entrepreneurs in Africa - what is needed are the tools, including technology, and financing to enable them.

Last year, we announced an Africa Investment Fund to support startup growth across Africa. Through the Fund, we invest $50 million in startups like SafeBoda and Carry1st, and provide Google’s people, products and networks to help them build meaningful products for their communities. This is on top of our existing work on the Startups Accelerator Africa, which has provided more than 80 African startups with equity-free finance, working space and expert advisors over the last three years. We also launched a Black Founders Fund in 2021, supporting Black African Founders like Shecluded, a digital financial growth resource and service startup for women.

Using technological innovation to solve systemic challenges

Advances in technology are increasingly enabling solutions to development challenges, and with 300 million more people coming online in Africa over the next five years, the possibilities are endless. Digital finance, for example, can be used to address the barriers preventing nearly a billion African women from banking - while advances in AI have made it possible for Google to Translate more languages, including Luganda - spoken by 20 million people here in Rwanda and in neighboring Uganda.

Technology offers Africa a tremendous opportunity for growth, prosperity and opportunity. I’m hopeful that working in partnership, we can continue to make an impact and build on Africa’s digital revolution.

Driving growth in the Middle East

The Nest is an online store that offers curated handcrafts from Egypt, from home accessories to fashion and furniture. When the pandemic started, founders Dina and Omar had to close their physical showroom, which used to drive 90% of their sales. They listed their business details on Google Maps and Search, promoted their products online and revamped their website which, in less than a year, became their main source of revenue.

According to a new report published by Public First research agency and commissioned by Google, our products and tools in the UAE, Egypt and Saudi Arabia helped businesses to adapt during the pandemic and helped people sharpen their skills and find jobs.

The report shows 45% of people in Egypt last year used Google Maps to find a local business and 52% of businesses in Saudi Arabia reported an increased proportion of their customers coming from online search or search advertising.

Since opening our first office in the Middle East and North Africa 13 years ago, Google has been actively supporting local businesses and developers, YouTube content creators, and publishers. Public First estimates that last year Google products like Search, YouTube, Android and Google Ads drove 12.2 billion SAR [3.2 billion USD] to the Saudi economy, 11.3 billion AED [3 billion USD] to the UAE economy and 11.2 billion EGP [600 million USD] to Egypt's economy.

Growing developers and creators

Manal, Saudi YouTube creator, shows how she tailors trousers on her YouTube channel

Manal, DIY content creator on YouTube in Saudi Arabia. Photo credit: Manal’s YouTube page

Manal, from Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, has a passion for DIY in fashion and home improvement. She started her YouTube channel to share her knowledge in upcycling dresses and scarves to make trousers, and repainting her room for Ramadan. Manal’s work has inspired others, and her community often share their own versions of her designs and ask for DIY tips. When she built her channel during the pandemic, her subscribers grew by over 300%. Manal is one of many talented creators in Saudi Arabia growing their business on YouTube. In fact, the percentage of YouTube channels in Saudi Arabia making six figures or more in revenue is up more than 20% year over year. That's a sign of steady growth in Saudi Arabia’s YouTube creator community.

Founder of Lamsa, Badr Ward, stands, smiling, with his arms folded

Badr Ward, founder of Lamsa World, an Arabic educational platform in the UAE. Photo credit: Hub71

Lamsa World is an educational platform in Arabic for children. It has interactive courses in math, science, language, arts and more. Badr Ward, the Dubai-based founder, wanted to help his children watch more educational content in Arabic, which was sparse and not always engaging. Badr and his team took part in the Google Accelerator Program in Dubai last year and, with the help of mentors, tested different sign-up options and experimented with different content formats. This led to a significant increase in the website's sign-up rates and a 300% increase in Arabic content downloads.

Unlocking skills and jobs

Since its launch in 2018, Maharat min Google, Google's digital skills program in Arabic, has trained 1.5 million people in the Middle East and North Africa. And in October 2020, Google announced a $13 million USD fund for digital tools, training programs, mentorship and financial grants to support businesses and job seekers in the Middle East and North Africa during the pandemic. Following Google's mentorship program with Mercy Corps, 50% of trainees said that they found a job, accelerated their career or grew their business by hiring new staff or increasing revenue.

Google Search also played a big role in helping people in the region access information and skills last year. For example, 85% of people in the UAE said they used Search to learn a new skill.

People looked for jobs too. Every month, around 11 million women in Egypt go to Search to look for a job. In Saudi Arabia, 1.8 million people use Search to prepare for a job interview. According to the World Economic Forum, many women are contributing to the innovation coming out of the Middle East and North Africa, yet this region continues to have one of the lowest levels of female economic involvement globally.

Public First estimates there are already 85,000 Android-based developer jobs in Egypt and 50,000 in the UAE. In Saudi Arabia, the total number of developers making USD 10,000 per month on Google Play grew by 16% last year.

We are proud that people in the Middle East and North Africa are able to unlock opportunities for themselves with the help of Google products and tools. The region is young, smart and digital, and Google is committed to doing more to help entrepreneurs, local business owners, developers and content creators get the skills they need to build and grow their digital businesses.

If you want to understand more about Google's impact in the Middle East and North Africa, and the methodology behind the report, visit the links below:

Belonging at Google in Europe, the Middle East and Africa

Building for everyone requires vision, and constant revision. Every product we create requires continually trying new things, examining data and learning from both our successes and failures to do better every day. Our work on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) is no different. Google first published its Diversity Annual Report in 2014 and since then we’ve built on what we’ve learned to increasingly make Google a place that is truly for everyone. Last year, for the first time, the data in the report was broken down across Google’s business regions. With this year’s report we now have the opportunity to report on progress for the business region that encompasses Europe, the Middle East and Africa which we call EMEA.

I’ve led Google’s DEI programs in EMEA since 2019. I’m often asked what DEI looks like in such a diverse region. How can one approach work from Paris to Lagos and from Milan to Tel Aviv? It’s not simple, but we are committed to finding ways to make progress. Each country has different rules governing what data we can collect and what policies are permissible. Our DEI data isn’t perfect, but it’s essential for us to measure our progress as it helps keep us honest about where we are at and where we want to be.

Representation of women in EMEA

The data shows that we have increased the overall representation of women in our workforce from 32.7% to 33.8%. That might sound small, but in an organization the size of Google in EMEA (over 25,000 employees and interns) this represents a significant shift.

We continue to make progress in the hiring of women in EMEA with an overall increase of 14%. Specifically, women made up 28% of our tech hires, 49.2% of our non-tech hires and 47.1% of our Leadership hires. This is an increase year on year of 27% for non-tech and 64% for leadership hires with tech hires staying the same.

Our focus on increasing representation of women in leadership roles across EMEA is showing promising results. We saw a significant gain of 10% in the representation of women in leadership roles which now stands at 29.7%. It’s good to see progress, but there is more to do here.

We know efforts to develop talent from under-represented groups need to start early. We have amplified our efforts to support gender equity in a number of countries in Africa, sponsoring and providing content for the Our Girls, Our Future conference for young women interested in the tech industry. Across Sub-Saharan Africa, we partnered with the Graca Machel Trust to provide digital skills training for more than 5,000 women entrepreneurs.

We also grew Mind the Gap, an initiative we started in Israel in 2008 that encourages women and girls to pursue STEM careers. Mind the Gap transitioned to a virtual platform at the beginning of the pandemic. In 2021, the program reached more than 60,000 students in Israel and expanded to Romania and Ghana.

Racial equity in EMEA

Last year, for the first time, we were able to report race data for our business region in the Diversity Annual Report, thanks to almost three quarters of Googlers in EMEA voluntarily providing this information.

We see White+* continue to account for the highest representation in EMEA (78.1% versus 80.4% last year). Representation of Asian+* Googlers shows the largest increase (from 10.9% to 12.1%), followed by MENA+* (from 7.3% to 7.8%), Black+* (from 2.8% to 3.2%), Latinx+ (from 3.8% to 3.9%) and Indigenous+ (no change at 0.3%).

Where we need to make better progress is in the speed at which things are changing. For example, there has been an increase in representation of MENA+ leaders (from 4.5% to 5.8%) and an increase in representation of Black+ leaders (from 3.3% to 3.8%) across EMEA - but we need to see more progress here. And representation for all racial categories except Black+ and White+ are lower in leadership than in the overall population.

Growing leadership is one of the key planks of our racial equity plans in EMEA. Here’s how we’re focusing our efforts:

  • In recruiting: In 2021, we set an aspiration to double the number of Black+ directors by 2023. Additionally, we aim to drive Black+ representation at all levels across our talent engagement, outreach initiatives and inclusive hiring commitments.
  • Baseline data: Where legally permissible, we have started to collect application data to help understand the representation of our candidates.
  • Nurturing talent: We relaunched Elevate+, a six-month-long EMEA specific program that offers one-on-one mentorship and coaching to Black+ employees. To date, nearly 200 Googlers have participated in this program.
  • Educating majority groups: We continue to engage Googlers through comprehensive anti-racism and racial equity education, such as trainings and our speaker series on racial justice. We also have a thriving community of allyship groups across EMEA.

It’s not just about supporting racial equity in our workforce — it’s also important to support the wider community. Black founders in EMEA received $63 million in ‘follow-on’ funding after they participated in our Black Founders Fund, with 95% of participants reporting a positive impact on their startup’s ability to fundraise. We announced a second fund earlier this year.

Disability in EMEA

Our recruiting teams and local HR teams work closely with our Disability Alliance group to progress our commitments to communities with disabilities, ensuring that our hiring process is accessible and our culture and managers are prepared to support and lead Googlers with disabilities.

Our talent engagement team in EMEA hosted its first ever Disability Conference (DisCo for short) for nearly 2000 students, new graduates and industry professionals with disabilities. The conference created a space for people with disabilities and allies to connect and engage with each other and Google.

We’re also fostering new connections with disability communities around the globe. Last year, our London, Dublin, Munich, Zurich, Wroclaw and Nairobi offices celebrated #PurpleLightUp, a global campaign that celebrates every employee with a disability around the world. Leaders from each office also held conversations with our employee resource group (ERG) for Googlers with disabilities.

LGBTQ+ representation in EMEA

We have incredibly active Pride and Trans employee resource groups at Google. These groups play a critical role in promoting belonging and inclusion within the LGBTQ+ community - from creating thoughtful programming for Trans Awareness week to leading Pride events activations across 26 countries, from Poland to South Africa.

Google is also a founding member of We Are Open, an alliance of businesses and other organizations in Hungary that promotes diversity and inclusion at the workplace, focusing on LGBTQ+ inclusion. In line with Google’s vision to be helpful for all, including our LGBTQ+ communities and its allies, we were excited to partner with Open for Business in creating a report on LGBTQ+ inclusion in Central and Eastern Europe that was released last year.

In addition, to aid small business recovery during the pandemic, we launched a global campaign to help support and celebrate LGBTQ+ friendly spaces - from a LGBTQ+ bookstore in Sweden, to Rainbow Square in Copenhagen. Google also officially supported the Ja Für Alle campaign in the referendum for Equal Marriage rights in Switzerland.

In conclusion

It’s up to every one of us to contribute to building a more inclusive, equitable, and representative workplace, region and world where everyone feels they belong. We have a responsibility to relentlessly represent and support the rich diversity of talent in our region and to make Google a place where everyone can thrive. This work is not a one-off effort. It requires thoughtful and committed, ongoing systemic action. Only by committing to doing this work together can we make meaningful and long lasting change.

If you’d like to find out more, please take a look at this year’s Diversity Annual Report.

Meet the entrepreneur connecting Kenyans to healthy food

When Binti Mwallau started Hasanat Ventures, her dairy processing company in Kenya, she expected some resistance from her peers in an industry dominated by men. But she was surprised to run into more skepticism from her customers. Despite her background in finance and biochemistry, many of them questioned her credibility as a woman entrepreneur.

Worried that her gender would affect Hasanat Ventures’ reputation, Binti considered hiring a man as the face of the business. But she eventually decided against it, standing firm in her pride as a solo founder and committed to tearing down the perception that women-run businesses in Africa aren't as successful as those run by men.

“I think we should be challenging the outdated narrative that businesses run by men are guaranteed to be more successful,” Binti says. “Based on research, we've seen that businesses run by women actually perform better. We should use this as an opportunity to prove that as a woman, you do stand a chance to succeed in everything that you do.”

Just as important to Binti as breaking this bias was giving Kenyans more access to affordable nutrition. “I realized that many people couldn’t afford premium yogurt. So we entered the market with a high-quality product that’s affordable for lower and middle-income earners who have become more health-conscious,” she says.

Binti knew she had to drive awareness for her brand, particularly to reach Kenyans who needed convincing about yogurt’s health benefits. So she turned to Google Digital Skills for Africa, which offers virtual classes to help entrepreneurs grow their skills and businesses, and completed a digital marketing course to help her get Hasanat Ventures online.

“After participating in the course, we knew our online presence had to be bigger than just social media,” Binti says. “Now that we have a fully functional website, we are actually getting leads from outside Kenya.”

As part of the course, Binti learned how to use Google Analytics to measure her website’s performance. She could now monitor traffic insights, analyze pageviews and better understand who was visiting her site.

Binti’s determination and passion for her business are showing up in the results. In its first year, Hasanat Ventures supplied over 300 retailers with affordable dairy products. Three years later, it’s grown to support more than 50 farmers and even built its own production facility to keep up with demand.

“I really want to make sure that I am visible and speaking up in spaces women don’t usually have access to,” Binti says. “As Hasanat Ventures continues to grow, I am confident I can help change the perception of African women in business.”

58% of Africa’s entrepreneurs are women. That’s why we’re empowering them with the platform and tools to grow their businesses. Learn more about our #LookMeUp campaign, highlighting Africa’s women entrepreneurs like Binti who are working to break the bias.