By Adedapo Adesanya
Google has launched a product development centre in Nairobi, Kenya, marking the first on the continent. The facility is to build transformative products and services for the African market and the world.
This comes after the tech giant revealed plans to invest $1 billion over the next five years in October last year.
The centre is Google’s second major research and development investment in Africa after the tech giant set up an AI and research centre in Nigeria’s West African neighbour, Ghana, in 2019.
This is part of plans by the company to hire over 100 tech talents, including software engineers, researchers and designers over the next two years.
According to Google VP for Products, Ms Suzanne Frey, this will help solve difficult and technical challenges, such as improving the smartphone experience for people in Africa or building a more reliable internet infrastructure for the continent.
With this new development, Google joins the growing list of tech giants setting up innovations hub in the East African country.
Two weeks ago, Visa announced that it had set up its first innovation centre to co-create payment and commerce solutions with partners.
Microsoft has also launched a research and development centre in the Kenyan capital.
“Africa has been at the forefront of innovation, and we believe that we are going to continue to develop and innovate right here from the continent,” said Google’s policy lead for Sub-Saharan Africa, Mr Charles Murito.
Africa, despite having a market of 1.2 billion people, remains at the bottom of the global digital economy value chain due to the high cost of mobile and fixed internet as expensive smartphones lockout over half of the population from web services.
Google said the investment will focus to bridge this gap by offering faster internet to more people at lower connectivity costs.
A new subsea cable Equiano is planned to run through South Africa, Namibia, Nigeria and St Helena and connect the continent with Europe.
This will add to the already existing 40,000-kilometre 4G and 5G subsea cable by the 2Africa consortium, that connects 19 African countries to Europe and the Middle East.
In efforts to help make smartphones more affordable to Africans, Google has partnered with Safaricom in a device financing plan to make Android devices more accessible.
The company is moving the initiative to partners like Airtel, MTN, Orange, Transsion Holdings and Vodacom to help millions of first-time smartphone users gain access to quality, affordable Android smartphones.