In the last few months, three global tech giants have visited Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country. Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella; Facebook’s Founder, Mark Zuckerberg; and Sundar Pichai, Google’s CEO, have all set foot on Nigerian soil recently. Is Africa really becoming the future hub of global growth, as Zuckerberg asserted?
There are many indications this is so, and the rising focus on the continent’s digital economy is a clear pointer.
While everything is all about helping Africa progress up the ladder of digital opportunities, Google’s visit comes with a pledge to empower 10 million African youths with salient digital skills. “Thrilled that we’re expanding our digital skills program to train 10M Africans over the next 5 years #GoogleforNigeria,” Sundar announced on Twitter while in Nigeria for the Google for Nigeria Conference at the end of July.
However, one might question the feasibility of this goal. Interestingly, Google has just completed an incredible test run with Digify. In the last year, one million Africans (400,000 Nigerians, 300,000 South Africans, 200,000 Kenyans and 100,000 from other countries) have benefited from the initiative poised to entrench digital skills and technological innovations in the sub-Saharan region.
To understand what this means for Africa, here are some important programs/plans to be aware of:
If Digify has exposed a million young Africans to various digital skills, as stated by Google South Africa country director, Luke Mckend, new plans are now in place to take things a notch higher.
In the next five years, Google plans to prepare 10 million African youth for “jobs of the future”. More importantly, the tech giant will be training 100,000 software developers. “We’ll also be providing mobile developer training to 100,000 Africans to develop world-class apps, with an initial focus on Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa,” says Google.
Funding is a tough challenge faced by start-ups everywhere. In Africa, it’s even tougher. Concerned about this, Google is committing $20 million to causes targeted at improving lives across Africa and $2.5 million initial grants, in particular, to the non-profit arms of African start-ups, Gidi Mobile and Siyavula.
Google is doing this “to provide free access to learning for 400,000 low-income students in South Africa and Nigeria” and enable them to develop new digital learning tools that would be enjoyed by other users for free.
There’s a strong nexus between “future jobs” and the “future of Africa.” And the boggling aspect of it is the dependence of the latter on the former. As it is, Africa needs to maximize the exponential potential of technology and tech entrepreneurship more.
With Launchpad Accelerator, Google plans to support African entrepreneurs in building successful technology companies and products. This initiative, according to Google, will provide more than $3 million in equity-free funding, mentorship, working space and access to professional advisers to more than 60 African start-ups over three years.
Data cost is a major hiccup in Africa’s Internet of Things. From one country to the other, there are continuous agitations for low data cost to foster internet activities. Luckily, Google is here to help in a way.
With YouTube Go – a new app that will make watching videos with a slower network a possibility – users now have control over the amount of data used on streaming or saving videos. This means watching YouTube videos won’t be as expensive.
The previous points are great, but not enough if the benefit is exclusive to YouTube. Great news: Google is giving an additional offer.
“We previously launched a feature that streamlines search results so they load with less data and at high speed. Today we’re extending that feature to streamline websites you reach from search results, so that they load with 90% less data and five times faster, even on low storage devices,” says Google on giving a better experience for users with 2G-like connections or low storage devices.
The benefits for Africa
Let’s put everything into context…
Africa’s growing demography has huge potential. Yet, it’s a cause for alarm. According to recent statistics, there are only between 3 and 4 million jobs created annually in a continent that will have the world’s largest population of youth (1.1 billion) by 2034. Apparently, the creation of thousands of millions of jobs is urgent.
But not just jobs. Africa needs “future jobs” that will meet future needs.
Given this demand, in an evolving digital world, acquiring the skillsets that will empower Africa’s innovative minds and consequently help them grow businesses, create jobs, and boost their respective economies is a viable way to make Africa the true future of global growth. – Written by Shakir Akorede, writer and founder of 501Words