Google prioritizes Nigeria in pan-African expansion plans


The cliché, Africa rising, is gaining stronger momentum beyond the mere rhetoric of western media. The growth figures from Sub-Saharan Africa and positive human developmental indexes are becoming hot topics across boardrooms in Europe and America as multinationals seek new growth opportunities in frontiers markets.

Nigeria, being Africa’s biggest economy with over 180million in population, about 61 percent of which are within the youth ranks, has been described as a hugely untapped market with great potential for investment and growth.The allure of the Nigerian economy is spiked up by the rapid progress in the mobile internet market, with over 73 million users as at today. That figure is on track to hit 100 million by 2020 according to Google’s Country Manager in Nigeria, Juliet Ehimuan-Chiazor, who was one of the speakers at the Google for Nigeria event in Lagos on July 28, 2017.

That puts Nigeria firmly among the top eight leading nations in mobile internet and first in Africa.The import of this data is definitely not lost on tech giants on Silicon Valley in the United States.

More than ever before, these tech companies are devoting more attention to investment in Africa. And they are making a big deal of it. Just last week, Google Head Quarters in California was wiped clean of almost all its top executives. They all boarded a plane to Lagos, the commercial capital of Nigeria and the number one hub for tech start-ups in West Africa to announce new products and improvements made to Google apps. This was the first of such Google event in Africa.

But it was not the first of such visit by a top executive from a major American tech outfit. About this time last year, Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg was in Nigeria, where he spent days exploring the country’s fledging tech ecosystem and announced major investments and partnership to support growth. Now Google is doing exactly the same thing.

The company chose Nigeria ahead of other developed nations like England, Canada and even its home country, the United State to launch a couple of new products and some inspiring innovations which it has made to a number of its products like Youtube and Google map. According to Google CEO, the recognition accorded Nigeria was an acknowledgement of the growing influence the country was having on the tech ecosystem globally and the role it could be playing in the near future.

“We are here to learn. Everything we do we want to make it work for everyone in the world at the same time,” Google CEO said. It is in keeping with this commitment that Google is launching some of the new innovations like YouTube Go and knowledge panel, health card and as well as putting Lagos on its revolutionary Google Street View.

YouTube Go is an exciting innovation that users discover, save and share videos in a way that’s transparent about the size of downloads. The app which is designed to work both online and offline, improves the experience of watching videos on a slower network and gives control over the amount of data used for streaming or saving videos. In June, Nigeria became only the second country where Google started actively testing YouTube Go. The app will be available to all Nigerian users in the course of the year.

Google is also accelerating its footprint in Africa’s biggest economy, home to 160million mobile subscribers,by launching Lagos on Google Street View. Google Street View, is a web-based application that augments Google Maps by providing panoramic images of streets in various cities around the world. Launched in 2007, Google Street View allows anyone from any location in the world to get a clear street view of locations. More than a million Nigerian buildings in commercial and residential areas and more than 100,000 additional small businesses have now been added to Google Maps.

With the launch of Lagos on Street View, “You can virtually drive along the Carter Bridge to the National Stadium or across the Eko Bridge, down to the Marina—all on your smartphone,” Google Vice President for Product Management, Search Tamar Yehoshua said.

But Google Street View offers even much more opportunities for business growth. According to Dan Oshodin, Managing Director at Posterscope Nigeria, a billboard advertising agency said “The arrival of Nigeria on Google Street View signals is a new dawn for the out-of-home advertising industry. With the coming of Google Street View, we can now can pull up an image using the Street View app for our clients to see an actual out-of-home location.”

Google’s visit to Nigeria, comes as the country claws its way out of a recession that began since the first quarter of 2016. This has resulted in a financial crisis that has made it impossible for businesses to keep jobs with more than 2 million job cuts across different sectors. Those affected the most are young people as about 40 percent of them are jobless according to the National Bureau of Statistics. And their ability to exit the labour market has been handicapped by weak infrastructure and an unwillingness by government to invest in capacity building.

Of course, the youth stands to benefit the most in a thriving tech ecosystem with potential to create millions of jobs, which is why Google is investing in capacity building across Africa.Through it Charity arm, the tech giant is committing $20 million over the next five years to nonprofits that are working to improve lives across Africa by supporting startups to acquire digital skills that can boost their businesses. As part of this effort, 100, 000 Africans will be trained on software development, while 10million will be equipped with digital skills.

Also next years, the tech will also commence Impact Challenge in Africa which will award $5 million in grants. Besides, $3million will also be disbursed through the global Launchpad Accelerator program by way of equity-free funding, mentorship, working space and access to expert advisers to more than 60 African startups over three years.