Google in Africa

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Archive for October 2007

First Google South Africa networking session kicks off

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Matthew Buckland

The new Google country head Stafford Masie held an informal get together and networking session for about 60 or so local internet players on Monday afternoon. He said the briefing was off the record, but later made exceptions for bloggers. It was a good session — the first ever held by the new Google South Africa.

It was a marathon of presentations from Googlers Frederick Leuschner, Carmel Doherty, and Ryan Kitching (a South African living in Eire) — and then presentations by internet stats guru Arthur Goldstuck, Quirk boss Rob Stokes, entrepreneur & VC-man Vinny Lingham, Acceleration director Richard Mullins, Richard Simpson from BulkSMS… and then at the end I also gave a presentation.

Like many in this industry, Stafford said he believed that this country is poised for a big, belated online boom. We are about to see the “dam walls crack… I honestly believe that…” And it’s plausible for a country that has been held back structurally as a result of expensive internet and a virtual telecoms monopoly. Of course in recent times this has been changing for the better.

Globally, Stafford believes that the internet was coming of age and that local marketers should see the global audience as their market and not just be restricted locally: “Your audience is everyone around the globe that is connected, South Africa is a market segment of a broader world market segment.”

Maisie said that Google would be making a “big mobile play” in the country — not surprising on a continent that has more mobile users than fixed-line telephone users. Referring to the recent release of Android, Stafford said that mobile will be big news for South Africa, and that he would be selling South Africa to the rest of Google from a mobile perspective.

Google is expected to officially launch in South Africa early next year.


Written by aheavens

October 19, 2007 at 6:10 pm

Continuing to Believe, Begin, Become

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Posted by Stacy Brown-Philpot, Director, Finance – Online Sales, Google – blog

In partnership with, Technoserve recently completed the second Believe Begin Become program in Ghana, identifying 10 new winners of its annual business plan competition. As a Google volunteer, I had an opportunity to interact with this year’s participants by teaching a class on presentation skills, judging the final round of the competition, and conducting one on one consulting sessions. I also visited the growing operations of 3 winners from last year and saw firsthand how the Believe Begin Become program has contributed to the success of their business.

I was both impressed and humbled by every entrepreneur I met. They all exhibited a level of energy, passion and enthusiasm that was overwhelmingly contagious. Operating in an environment where sound infrastructure is not a given, poverty is a reality, and health issues abound, they are seeking to create and build sustainable businesses that will change their community and their country for the better.

This year’s top winner of the overall business plan competition, Sheila Ocansey (pictured below, left, with me, right), embodies this energy and passion. With FrutyFresh, she plans to package and distribute quality fresh fruit to local Ghanaian professionals, families, and children. Sheila was thoughtful enough to bring a sample of her product to her oral presentation, something that impressed all of the judges. I craved FrutyFresh fruit for its freshness, quality, and taste throughout the rest of my stay in Ghana. The other top winners include: Darko Abednego, Stanley Adjei, Yaw Agyei-Henaku, Joseph Brenyah, Savior Deikumah, Nikoe Gavu, Mary Koranteng, Daniel Oduro, and Joseph Tettey.

I observed firsthand the promise of what is possible for this year’s winners through visits with three winners from last year. Nicholas Vordzgbe of City Wash launched his mobile car wash service using a highly profitable, environmentally friendly approach to a common activity. City Wash is capable of washing an SUV with just 2 liters of water! His next move includes opening a point of service location and expanding his mobile activities. Isaac Bohulu launched Natural Scientific Pharmaceuticals in a style characteristic of Silicon Valley. In a room that should have been his master bedroom, he is running a government approved production facility for his flagship product, Neemfresh Herbal Mouthwash, made from completely natural ingredients. Finally, last year’s overall winner, Joseph Tackie of MeatyFoods, showed us how a shift in his marketing strategy allowed him to quintuple his revenues in one month. While we sampled the butcher’s spicy sausage, he told us of his plans to open his second store.

The Believe Begin Become program was launched with the hope that we would create an ecosystem of entrepreneurs, investors, customers, and employees that contribute to the growth and economic development of Ghana. Participating in the judging process, seeing the operations in action, and spending time with the entrepreneurs provided evidence that this is exactly what is happening. Participants from last year have become customers and/or suppliers of each other. Last year’s winner was a mentor to at least 3 of the winners from this year. The judges and potential investors have high standards; not only are they funding these businesses, but they are personally engaged and interested in their success. The program creates employment opportunities and causes capital to flow back into communities. With 120 alumni in the Believe Begin Become program, the newly-created alumni association will help fuel and expand on the already growing ecosystem that has been created.

Written by aheavens

October 15, 2007 at 11:26 am