Google in Africa

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Google SA – dusty outpost or a revitaliser of industry?

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posted by Vincent Maher

After what feels like ages [and countless rumours] Google has appointed someone to the position of general manager for South Africa. Kimberly Guest’s exclusive on ITWeb reports that Stafford Masie, Novell’s country manager, has been appointed to the job.

There has been much debate about which industry this person would come from – media, advertising, tech – and what sort of attributes they would need to have. Until last week I was thinking it would be a media person, but then someone reminded me of the difficult relationship Google tends to have with traditional media. The pure-play online media people tend to have less business experience/success in South Africa and advertising people are too specialised for a job like this so I think they made the right call.

It’s not that South Africa is a major focus area for Google, though in the EMEA context it probably is big alongside Egypt, it’s that the impact of Google making direct and interpersonal connections with advertisers in this country might well have a significant impact on the online media industry and their margins. The fact is the local online ad industry doesn’t need a revitalisation, it has been going through one for the last two years and the entry of Google on a more serious level may have a negative impact on the local entrepreneurship we’re seeing.

Aside from that, local companies paying offshore companies for local ad-spots seems a bit like we’re a banana republic.

On the other hand, and I know some people are already thinking this way, it might just turn out to be a regional backwater in Google’s colonial sprawl. Either way it’s going to be interesting to find out.

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Written by aheavens

July 27, 2007 at 3:03 pm

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