Experts question whether Google’s planned $1 billion investment in Africa stands to benefit the continent in the long term. Instead, some see it as another avenue for big tech companies to acquire budding start-ups.
Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai recently announced a $1billion (€858 million) investment in Africa. The massive investment will run for over five years and cover a range of initiatives. Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, and Ghana, will be the primary beneficiaries of the tech giant. It will prioritize improvement in connectivity and supporting innovative start-ups.
The announcement comes when foreign direct investment (FDI) has been falling globally. However, for development economist Shuiabu Idris, the news means Africa is now being taken seriously by multinational companies. “A global giant like Google thinking about Africa and wanting to invest in Africa is something that is gratifying to know,” Idris told DW.
But not all share Idris’s enthusiasm. Maximus Ametorgoh, a Ghanaian IT specialist, called for a critical evaluation of Google’s Africa venture. “We have to measure the advantages and disadvantages,” Amertogoh told DW. “Some of these tech giants come, invest in small businesses, and end up acquiring those businesses.” He also warned that the tech giants “kill” the small businesses by owning all the codes after paying off the innovators. “Africa then comes back to the same farmland,” Amertogoh said.
The Ghanaian tech expert pointed out that Google’s proposals are not the problem, but instead, there was a need to assess the lasting impact of the investment.
“For me, ownership is very key. Whatever business they [Google] are going to invest in. In the long term, is it going to be owned by the Africans or start-up founders or by Google?”