Growth in

In October of 2021, Google announced a US$1 billion investment over the next five years to support the expansion of digital transformation efforts across the continent.

Since 2017, Google has trained 6 million young Africans and businesses in digital skills, supported more than 50 nonprofits across Africa with over $16 million of grants, and enabled 100 million more Africans to access internet services for the first time. This investment by Google, which includes laying of subsea cable to enable faster internet speeds and lower connectivity costs and low-interest loans to help small businesses and equity investments in African startups, represents a doubling down on our belief in the tremendous future of the African continent.

Since 2000, the number of people with access to the internet in Africa has grown to over 520 million, or almost 40% of the population. Sixty percent of Africa’s internet population accesses the internet through mobile phones, and an increase of 10% in mobile internet penetration can have a direct impact on the per-capita GDP of 2.5%, compared to 2% globally. This kind of growth is both crucial and self-perpetuating — promoting increased internet access, which fuels economic growth, which fuels more transformation and so on.

Africa’s developer community is also growing, particularly in South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Egypt, and Morocco. Using a combination of formal and informal education methods, these coders — including a notable number of women — are gaining the skills that give them access to well-paying jobs and an avenue for new opportunities.

In addition to our latest commitment, we’re continuing to make our products more relevant and helpful to people throughout Africa with better features and information. We’re also working to ensure African languages work well with Google products, enabling more people to use them. Google Search, for example, is now available in 37 African languages, and YouTube and Google Maps both have versions in Swahili, Amharic, Afrikaans, and Zulu.

With our Gboard app, we had the very unique opportunity to meet and work with Abdoulaye and Ibrahima Barry. In 1989, the two brothers invented the AdLaM alphabet to represent the West African Fulani language — a tongue which had been spoken but never written for hundreds of years. Because AdLaM wasn’t on Gboard, it was difficult for its native speakers to represent the true sounds of their language when they were typing. To fix this, we worked alongside Abdoulaye and Ibrahima to design and test an AdLaM layout, and it’s currently live on Gboard today. (Learn more about the story behind the Barry brothers’ inspiring work at Talk at Google).

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The AdLaM Alphabet.

Abdoulaye and Ibrahima Barry invented the AdLaM alphabet to represent a West African language that had been spoken but never written for hundreds of years. We worked with the brothers to incorporate AdLaM into the Gboard app.

Meanwhile, Read Along by Google, a gamified reading and language-learning app we introduced in India, is now available to children throughout Africa. And Task Mate, our app that lets people complete small tasks and get paid for them, after being beta-tested in India and Mexico, rolled out in October of 2021 for Africa as well.

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Helping children enjoy reading.

A young learner in Nigeria struggles with reading until his mother discovers Read Along by Google, which gamifies reading in 10 different languages.

Building A Better Biobank with 54gene

Most people don’t realize that about 80% of the human DNA currently used in genetic studies comes from people of European descent. Beyond being grossly unrepresentative, that also means that genetic researchers are often unable to address diseases and medical conditions that affect global ethnicities.

Enter Abasi Ene-Obong, PHD. In 2019, this young tech engineer from Nigeria founded 54gene, a startup dedicated to increasing the availability of, and access to, African genomic data, which currently accounts for less than 3% of the total available record. By late 2020 — less than two years after it began — 54gene had already successfully completed two rounds of funding, and created a fully resourced biobank in Lagos, supporting much-needed academic research, drug development, and disease detection.

All over the African continent, talented entrepreneurs like Ene-Obong are creating similar opportunities. By 2025 — even in the face of setbacks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic — the digital transformation occurring in Africa, and the booming startup ecosystem it’s ignited, is on track to contribute $180 billion to the African economy, helping improve agriculture, health care, financial services, education, supply chains, and more, all in places where those systems are in desperate need.

For what has historically been one of the most impoverished and overlooked continents on earth, investing in accelerating the digital transformation in Africa has world-changing potential and the power to completely reshape how the internet will look in the future. There is so much opportunity ahead, and we look forward to partnering with more African governments, policymakers, educators, entrepreneurs, and businesses to shape the next wave of innovation.


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