On Tuesday, Susan Frey, vice-president of product management, at the tech giant, announced that Google’s first development centre in Africa will be built in Nairobi, Kenya. The investment will be the company’s second-largest on the continent, in research and development (R&D), after Google opened an artificial intelligence research hub in Ghana in 2019.
The choice is motivated by the growing use of the internet on the African continent. As stated by Nitin Gajria, managing director Africa at Google, “By 2030, Africa will have 800 million internet users […] and Google wants to commit to accelerating Africa’s digital transformation through human capital.” Hence the commitment, back in October last year, to invest a billion dollars in Africa. The scope of this investment is still very general and will focus on enabling fast and affordable internet access for more and more Africans, building useful products, supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses and helping non-profit organisations improve lives across Africa.
These announcements come close on the heels of decisions by other digital giants, such as Visa and Microsoft, which have announced plans to invest in the country.
Analysts and experts see in these foreign direct investments (FDI) good possibilities for local engineers, who will see an increase in salary, and for the economy in general, as there will be more attraction for foreign talent. In general, the direction seems to be, as stated above in Gajria’s statement, to invest in the area’s human capital by sponsoring and incentivising higher and more specialised education. Local small and medium-sized enterprises, on the other hand, could suffer as they would not be able to withstand the competition both from a qualitative and a quantitative point of view, given the strong attraction that the new companies will exert on professionals now working in local companies.