Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Is A for Africa?

In August, we awoke to news that we had to learn the Alphabet. Well, not literately. Google co-founder Larry Page made a huge announcement about a corporate restructuring which would see Alphabet become the holding company of Google and several other companies within the Google family. 

The restructuring looks pretty seamless, appears well thought out,  and was explained to the public in simple ABC (the spectrum of puns that can be created with Alphabet are too juicy to pass up) and the public lapped it up.
In a blog-post published on the 10th of August, Larry Page explained: “Alphabet is mostly a collection of companies, the largest of which, of course, is Google. This newer Google is a bit slimmed down, with the companies that are pretty far afield of our main internet products contained in Alphabet instead.” The restructuring leaves Larry and Sergey Brin as CEO and President of Alphabet respectively, with Sundar Pichai as CEO of Google.

With our level of dependence on many of Google's products, it is undeniable that the changes in the structure of the company and its future projections will have an impact on the kind of technology that will be available in the future. However despite the excitement, an important effect of this restructuring which seems little talked about is the impact the changes in Google will have on Africa. What does Alphabet hold for Africa? Could A also be for Africa?

Of all Alphabet’s subsidiaries, Google seems to be the most predominant in Africa. For instance on the 18th of August 2015, Google launched Android One through a strategic partnership with Jumia, Infinix and MTN Nigeria. Google has long recognized that a large percentage of Africans can only become plugged in to the internet using mobile, as opposed to traditional desktops or laptops. Thus the launch of Android One is a step in the right direction for Google if it is to meet its ambitious goal of connecting the world to the internet. The development of Google maps, Google ambassadors projects across schools in Africa, as well as Google partnering with innovation hubs are also ways through which the brand has registered its presence in the developing world.

Google is making inroads in Africa, but what about Alphabet? It may be a bit premature to expect other companies under the Alphabet umbrella such as Calico, which seeks to extend human life, to immediately begin making a mark on the continent, considering the experimental nature of its outlook. However, could there be more prospect for other companies like Google Ventures and Google Capital to begin to take a more in-depth look at the African business climate? In the blog-post published by Larry Page upon the restructuring, he explained that “We are also stoked about growing our investment arms, Ventures and Capital, as part of this new structure.” We at Amoo hope this effort will also focus on emerging economies.

While being optimistic about the future of Alphabet in Africa, we are wont to hold the sentiment that only time will tell whether other ventures within the Alphabet family will establish such presence or show such focus on the African climate.

Whatever the future holds for the tech giant and its relationship with Africa, it is clear that Larry and Sergey have lived up to the promise they made. Google is not a conventional company and they do not intend to become one. We definitely agree with this. 

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