Google eyes Africa opportunities
Google’s managing director of Africa, Alex Okosi, suggested that the continent is to become the next global tech hub, but warned investment is needed.
Speaking at Africa Tech Festival last week, Okosi said that conversations have long moved from access to the internet, or barriers to services, which “we’re not talking about… anymore,” he said.
“We’re talking about Africans being online, job opportunities being made available, and educational opportunities accessible on a large-scale.”
By 2030, Okosi said that a quarter of the world’s youth population will be in Africa which is “a tremendous opportunity that investors need to think about.”
“eLearning can be able to really roll out even more, as more people get access to the Internet, whether it is online materials, remote classrooms…”
The Google, Africa MD added that there has been a rise in the number of young African entrepreneurs and increasing internet accessibility will ensure these start-ups grow.
But he told delegates not to expect a “quick return” on investments: “One of the things investors need to think about is that Africa is not a quick return market. You have to look at it as a long play.
“If you don’t bet on Africa today, you will never be able to realise the potential of it, which I think is going to start paying off over the next five years.”
Google’s influence in the continent
Since 2018, Google has invested in over 100 startups in Africa. These startups have raised around $250 million, across 70 markets and created about 3000 jobs — “and this AfricaCom is a testament to that idea,” Okosi said.
One area investors need to think about is training. Google runs a startup accelerator program helping companies understand how they can achieve business success.
In terms of AI, which Okosi said is another lucrative area of investment, Google opened an AI research center in Ghana in 2018, and it has recently opened another one in Kenya.
Google is leveraging these centres to create easy to use, accessible tools for maternal health questions in healthcare, for example.
“So you’re able to have those points of care tools that are easy from an ultrasound perspective, to make sure that maternal health outcomes are much better.”
The big tech company is also looking to help farmers understand when local outbreaks are going to happen. It has developed AI predictive tools that allow farmers to have around a 77-day head-start to understand what’s going to happen before it happens.
It has also used AI tools to predict river rain floods ahead of time to help neighbouring communities make a plan.
“We’re also recruiting on the ground in Africa because they will be able to help refine the language models and some of the development solutions.”
Okosi added that governments need to be involved in these innovations to enable the growth of digital technology on the continent.
“if the government employees understand the digital space, they may craft regulation to be able to spur growth.”
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