Google CEO, Sundar Pichai, on leading edge innovation in Africa

A well-known development lately has seen huge tech firms announce leading edge improvements in key markets. For years Africa has barely featured within the dialog, however all that’s altering, and Google is taking part in an enormous half. 

In 2021, Google introduced a $1 billion fund for Africa, an funding that might contain the launch of Equiano, a state-of-the-art subsea cable that guarantees to alter how Africans expertise the Web. It additionally included a fund for African startups and SMEs amongst different issues. 

On the 2022 Google I/O convention, the tech big made some thrilling bulletins that seemingly made all its earlier bulletins come full circle. In an unprecedented transfer, Google invited • for a chat with its CEO to deal with points on Google’s progressive efforts in Africa.  

In case you simply began following tech tales in 2021, it will in all probability shock you to know that Google has been launching various initiatives throughout Africa with a majority of them geared towards connectivity.  

We’ve had the defunct Google free WiFi initiative and Challenge Loon. One concerned putting in stations to entry the Web totally free, whereas the opposite sought to utilize the air balloons to beam Web indicators to distant areas in Kenya. 

In 2019, Google opened its first African synthetic intelligence lab in Accra, Ghana to unravel fundamental on a regular basis issues for Africans. A few of these options have been AI fashions deployed on telephones to diagnose crop illnesses. 

The next yr, Google launched plus codes, a novel identifier that was mainly a avenue deal with for individuals who don’t have one. For a continent like Africa with a fragmented addressing system, this had quite a few advantages for various sectors like logistics, well being, and governance (learn census and elections). 

Regardless of all these initiatives, Sundar Pichai nonetheless believes that Google needs to be doing extra for Africa.  

“Now we have a renewed give attention to Africa. In some methods, we’re utilizing a template which has labored nicely in different international locations. As an illustration, in different components of the world, we’ve introduced a centered improvement fund, over a time period. And which works on many pillars like small companies, digital skilling, AI centres and expertise.”

Recall that in January 2022, Google introduced a $1 billion fund in India to offer reasonably priced entry to smartphones and velocity up the uptake of cloud computing. That is eerily just like the $1 billion Africa improvement fund which Pichai says has been an enormous focus for the corporate. 

Whereas the Indian fund noticed the corporate accomplice with Bharti Airtel, its latest launch of Equiano has seen partnerships with as much as 10 main African telcos. The give attention to networking and the launch of a product improvement centre in Kenya additionally hints at a significant cloud computing future. 

Past connectivity, Google’s efforts are seemingly geared towards plugging infrastructure gaps in Africa. 

If Google maps have ever left you stranded earlier than, that’s primarily a symptom of Africa’s casual housing system which we referenced above. Based on the World Financial institution, African cities face a significant housing problem with the rise in city slums. Sub-Saharan African account for 20% of the individuals dwelling in slums. 

In 2021, the tech behemoth used Synthetic Intelligence to map as much as 300 million buildings in Africa, 5 occasions greater than the 60 million recorded in 2020. 

“We’re opening up the datasets for the World Financial institution and the United Nations to allow them to use this knowledge for his or her packages,” Google’s CEO reveals, including that, “ the second is correct for Africa and growing Web penetration, the entrepreneurship we’re seeing, and entry to know-how and coaching will place it nicely.”

On Google’s platforms in Africa

Supply: Google

Apart from infrastructure performs, certainly one of Google’s iconic platforms, the Android OS is extremely well-liked in Africa. Stats counter states that greater than half of African smartphone customers use the Android platform. 

Nonetheless, Google’s flagship Android telephone, Google Pixel, has struggled to make inroads in Africa.

On the Google I/O convention, the corporate introduced the addition of a number of initiatives together with the Pixel 6a which formally prices just a bit greater than ₦200,000 ($499). But when the pricing of the Pixel 6 provides us any indication, then it will be considerably costlier in Nigeria. For context, the Pixel 6 formally price ₦250,000 ($599) at launch, however Nigerian retailers sometimes offered the pixel between ₦400,000 – ₦500,000 ($1,000 – $1,200). 

Pichai revealed that provide constraints have prevented the Pixel from totally launching in Africa and a number of other different international locations. 

“Once you do {hardware}, it’s not sufficient, when you launch in a rustic. You must put money into a supporting forged of issues. You’ll want to have retail partnerships, you need to have deep provider partnerships, you need to be sure that some localized content material is out there, and you need to be sure you have a advertising and marketing program that works in that nation.” 

Pichai says the main target has been on scaling it nation by nation. Spreading Pixel to Europe, India, and Japan. Nonetheless, Africa may want a really totally different technique. 

“Pixel is at the next worth level for Africa, so the work we’re doing with unique gear producers may be very essential, and that has grow to be an enormous, huge focus for us as nicely.”

At $499 The Pixel 6a is the most affordable in Google’s newest telephone lineup. By comparability, the worldwide behemoth, Samsung, retails the Galaxy AO3 at ₦45,000 ($108). Pichai’s assertion foreshadows extra reasonably priced pixel telephones that might be focused on the African market.

Nonetheless, Africa nonetheless has a protracted option to go relating to innovation, and Google seems to be taking part in the lengthy recreation for now. Its fledgeling YouTube creator program, and its privateness insurance policies which have allowed mortgage sharks to run amok current constructive and destructive points of utilizing Google’s merchandise in Africa. From all indications, Africa is about to hit a brand new period with huge tech. 

Emmanuel Paul

Author and narrator of know-how, enterprise and insurance policies in Africa . Trying to chat? Meet up with me (@eruskkii) on Twitter or ship a mail to


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