Google has announced opening up three new programmes targeted at supporting African entrepreneurs — the 6th cohort of Google for Startups Accelerator (GFSA) Africa, $3 million Black Founders Fund (BFF) Africa, and Google.org-backed $3 million grants for female entrepreneurs.
Following a rigorous selection process earlier in the year, 15 tech startups have been chosen across the continent to participate in the GFSA; and the three-month online mentorship programme will begin today, June 21, 2021. Notably, the first virtual class of Google for Startups Accelerator Africa was launched last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
GFSA has graduated 67 startups from the past five cohorts — represented across 17 African countries — since it launched in 2018.
Charles Murito, Google’s Africa Policy and Government Relations Director, told Techpoint Africa that these startups are in turn accelerating the continent’s economy, having collectively raised over $72 million in capital and provided 2,800 jobs after participating in the programme.
Black Founders Fund (BFF) Africa
Simultaneously, applications will be opened for the $3 million Black Founders Fund for African startups in their early stage. The programme will have 50 African startups, led by Black founders, receive cheques between $50k and $100k.
However, it is non-dilutive equity-free funding, which means the startups do not have to give up part of their shares to Google following the financing. In addition, the startups will get $220k in Google ads grants and cloud credits alongside training sessions and access to Google’s network of mentors.
To be eligible for this, interested businesses must be a tech startup headquartered in either Botswana, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, or Zimbabwe; have a founding team of at least one black founding member, and possess technical skills to use Google’s resources.
Head of Google for Startups Accelerator Africa, Onajite Emerhor, adds that, for inclusiveness, the fund is open to companies that are focused on supporting the black community, not only those led by black C-level founders.
Qualified startups can apply here as applications close on July 7, 2021.
SME grants and support for 500 female entrepreneurs
Meanwhile, another $3 million has been earmarked as SME grants. This fulfils the company’s promise to open funding initiatives to small businesses that are not online. The $3 million funds will be used to provide mentorship, coaching, and access to key markets for 5,000 female entrepreneurs with low digital skills come from rural areas and currently operate in an informal sector.
This will also include seed capital in the form of cash grants and Google product support for 500 aspiring female entrepreneurs. Beneficiaries will be chosen from Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, and select Francophone countries.
For two of the programmes, Google will be working with two African partners, with a thriving community of entrepreneurs, to disburse the funds — Co-Creation Hub (CcHUB) for BFF, while Tony Elumelu Foundation will be in charge of grants for female entrepreneurs.
Beneficiaries of the Google.org grant will be picked from the ongoing 2021 Cohort of the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) Entrepreneurship Programme. Although applications for the 2021 cohort is already closed, the $3m Google.org grant will form part of the funds available to over 200,000 entrepreneurs that the program is currently training, from which 500 will be chosen.
In Google’s 14 years of presence in Africa, it has at different times launched investments initiatives that are far-reaching into the continent, not only South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, and Ghana, where it has physical offices. It has reached more locations through partnerships with tech hubs and startup communities in other locations.
Apart from funding, Google has also been actively involved in empowering African talents with digital skills. During his visit to Nigeria in 2017, Google CEO, Sundar Pichai, disclosed plans to train 10 million Africans in digital skills by 2022.
In January 2020, Google launched the Google Developers Space in Lagos, the first of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa — to serve as an incubation ground for innovators. In the meantime, the tech giant has ongoing projects addressing Africa’s Internet access and connectivity challenges.