Google in Africa

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Google is Moving in East Africa

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White African

7 Month old Google Kenya is starting to interact with the local hackers and devs. Just this Tuesday they sponsored the local Tuesday Skunkworks event, giving some of their thoughts on Kenya specifically. My friend, and fellow Kenyan blogger, Bankelele was in attendance and took notes.

Highlights. Google is…

* Mapping Kenya
* Partnering with the largest mobile carrier (Safaricom) and giving free email accounts to all subscribers
* Partnering with universities to make inroads with their web-based office applications and associated services
* Encouraging local content providers to get online (ex: NTVKenya on YouTube)
* Fighting for more bandwidth for all Kenyans
* Working with legislatures to create the right atmosphere to get the right internet infrastructure

Read the rest, and get more detail, on Bankelele’s blog.

It’s interesting to see how Google continues to look at new markets and move ahead in them, without any real profit there yet. Meanwhile, their main competition on the global level on the web (Yahoo!), doesn’t. Interestingly enough, Yahoo has had the mindshare and marketshare in East Africa, but didn’t capitalize on it. They basically left the door open for Google to come in and steal it all away… and they are.


Written by aheavens

March 6, 2008 at 5:49 pm

Skunkworks: Nairobi March 4

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A Skunkworks (blog) meeting yesterday was hosted by (7 month old) Google Kenya, and it was attended by an interesting mix of engineers, webhosts, designers, admins, bloggers and rivals of Google, – who all listened as Google employees explained their aps and maps.

some scribbled notes

– There’s an ongoing Google East Africa competition for students to develop gadgets for Google (closes March 17)
– They are mapping the country with Google map’s – started with Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu and Nakuru, with a Kenyan team, doing the mapping work, using the tools. Ideally the next step will be for maps to stream into local yellow pages
– Safaricom have the largest customer base of any kind in Kenya – 8 million strong – and so Google partnered with them to give all their subscribers free e-mail. Many people’s introduction was and still remains, accessing an email account.
– Ushaidi was cited as an examples of enhanced use of a Google platform
– Google in Africa for the long term, with an altruistic motive of sharing local content & information – and currently get less than 1% of revenue from Africa. They helped NTV set up a Youtube platform that has been a big success in terms of Kenyans abroad now able to watch local news online. They monetize in three ways – videoads, adsense, search box advertising. Kenya/Africa needs to get more local content up. Already some local web sites are making good money off adsense that is enough to sustain their online operations.
– Hot point #1 was bandwidth; or the performance of connectivity, service providers and other operators. They are known in the industry for short-changing consumers who are not wary and in the face of a regulator (CCK) who does not seem to care. There was a call for users to take the initiative, to test bandwidth speeds, and identify those with superior speeds and those who were short-changing consumers (a model from Australia called Whirlpool to test broadband was mentioned as a model that could be used to do this)
– Hot point # 2 was the lack of investment in infrastructure/or the wrong kind of investment. Examples: There are 4 ethernet cables in Nairobi, but no cooperation between providers. Government is building data centers, but with no servers there. Local loops are not benefiting end users. It would be nice of government required new building developers to also install connectivity in buildings
– Other challenges with local advertising – does it work? Yahoo never advertised in Kenya; yet have more e-mail accounts through word of mouth. Google is working with universities to give them free e-mail as a way of building a long term relationship. There’s also a move to alert local advertising companies to the presnce of local site to advertise on.

There were many other conversations but they were drowned out by sounds of mouths slurping pizza slices and mshikaki’s.

Written by aheavens

March 4, 2008 at 6:16 pm

Google Expanding Africa Presence

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Google is expanding its presence in Africa, in what locals are suggesting is part of a move by Google to “realign” its growth strategy part in response to Microsoft’s takeover offer for Yahoo.

Google is currently advertising or has employed staff in Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Nigeria and Senegal, and is expanding its Africa head office in Kenya.

AllAfrica reports that Google’s Nairobi (Kenya) office is searching for five senior executives for its African operations, “laying the foundation for a looming market share battle on the continent.”

Online connectivity in Africa is below 5% of the population, which isn’t completely surprising given large parts of the content still lack basics such as water, food and electricity. However the more stable African nations have started to boom, and Africa remains the final frontier for internet growth. Africa offers strong growth opportunities into the future when eventually much of the growth in Asia and South America will start to slow.


[Africa] is the only remaining unindustrialized continent, and it’s jumping straight into the information era, the largest population to do so without industrialization. Any company that has vision will “realign” itself.

Hash – Google started making these moves long before there was any talk of a MS/Yahoo deal. They’ve been slowly ramping up in East/West Africa for the last year and South Africa for 2 years. If you’re thinking that Google is moving faster into Africa just for what your concept of the internet is, you’re wrong there too. It’s about mobile phones and the long tail of the African market. There are more than 200 million mobile phones in Africa that few companies are paying any attention to. It’s Africa’s PC. Yes, there is a market within urban areas for traditional web-based Google products, but this isn’t the main market in Africa. Your comment that, “Africa remains the final frontier for internet growth” is true though. People are going to make millions of dollars there very soon, and the rest of the world will be surprised because they didn’t see it coming.

Written by aheavens

February 6, 2008 at 1:22 pm

Posted in expansion, tactics

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Africa: Google Starts Recruitment Plan to Up Clout

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All Africa

Internet search company Google Kenya’s Nairobi office is searching for five senior executives for its African operations, laying the foundation for a looming market share battle on the continent.

The Nairobi office serves as the company’s African headquarters. The five senior managers are expected to complement nine other senior level appointments who are already working in the continent.

Advertisements posted on Google’s website indicate that the company is looking for people with local expertise in marketing, logistics as well as technical support.

Google is also searching for office leads in Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Nigeria and Senegal.

Some of the positions were advertised and filled early last year, but the company says the current recruitment should help strengthen the company’s operations.

The move comes amid increasing finding that emerging markets such as Africa are poised to become the next frontier of growth for global Internet companies.

Less than five per cent of the African population is currently hooked on the Internet.

Locally, Google appears to be pursuing a low key strategy, with its most notable achievements so far being a partnership with tertiary educational institutions to support students.

It has also entered into an agreement with mobile phone service provider Safaricom to offer e-mail and data services to Safaricom’s subscribers.

The service is expected to offer the first formal Internet experience for millions of rural Kenyans. This partnership has also offered Safaricom a platform to launch a local version of Google Maps to add to its growing portfolio of Internet based services.

Google is currently realigning its global operations following revelations that software giant Microsoft has made a $44.6 billion bid for Yahoo!.

Written by aheavens

February 5, 2008 at 1:31 pm

Posted in expansion, tactics

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

Google to open South African office, follows in Amazon’s footsteps

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Vinny Lingham

ITWeb reported that Google has finally appointed a Country Manager to setup it’s South African operations.

South African Internet usage has grown 120% in the past year, and it won’t be long until you see eBay, Yahoo & the others follow Google & Amazon’s recent foray (Amazon’s Cape Town office built EC2) into South Africa.

We have the fast growing user base (5m+), emerging middle class, 5%+ economic growth, broadband adoption growing rapidly, and SA is the gateway into Africa – over 1bn people – it’s only the logical next step. Oh, and did I mention, 30m+ mobile users!!!

I had the chance to meet with Stafford Masie today, the new Google South Africa Country Manager, and I can truly say that I was very impressed with his energy and I think that he is going to make a big difference here. I’ve read some blogs where people have stated some concerns – and this echoed the “behind the scenes” chatter within the industry – which went largely unpublished.

Prior to meeting Stafford for the first time ever today – I must admit that I was also a bit hesitant myself, as he is effectively an industry “outsider” to Search Engine Marketing and I wasn’t sure what to expect. In all honesty, if I don’t have something heartfelt to say – I’d usually just keep quiet, but I’m going to put my neck out here and say to all the naysayers, that I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised with Google’s appointment. As usual, time will tell – but he has my support and faith!

After the discussion today, I can only congratulate Google on an excellent choice in appointing Stafford!

One of the recent posts that emerged was one from Vincent Maher, that I must disagree with, was about Google discouraging entrepreneurs by entering the local market.

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.

There are search engines in South Africa, that shall remain unnamed, that prey on the ignorance of advertisers trying to advertise online in South Africa – and that’s all I’m going to say on this point. I do believe that Google will “bring balance to the force” 🙂

Google being more local will actually assist the industry in weeding out the crap that has emerged from our recent boom in online and encourage entrepreneurs to focus on building valuable businesses, that can be monetized by Google’s Adsense, which has created thousands of $ millionaires – Google earns roughly 1/3 of it’s $14bn/year in revenues via AdSense – and a large percentage of that is paid back to publishers. If anything, Google encourages entrepreneurship, like no one else in this space (maybe even as much as eBay!).

As in all countries – Google has ruffled offline media feathers by forcing them to be held accountable to their media agency’s grandiose ideas. The reality is that online usage and time spent is growing, and offline media consumption is dropping, globally. Google’s model is to make advertising efficient, and inefficient media companies are forced to either adapt or face revenue drops. This has lead to agencies like IPG being forced to diversify their business through acquisitions. You’ll soon see similar moves in South Africa, as the market moves to a more efficient marketing platform.

Vincent’s comment on the “Banana Republic” only held true up until this point. If Google reinvests those profits in developing South Africa, and Africa – then it’s certainly not just milking the local economy for profits, it’s building the industry.

My prediction is that we’re going to see a lot of world first innovations coming out of South Africa, as a result of Google taking the initiative here and showcasing both our technical talents, but more importantly, the commercial opportunities for Internet multi-nationals in South Africa!

I trust that all my (local) readers will join me in welcoming Google to Africa – thanks for joining us, finally!!

Written by aheavens

August 15, 2007 at 2:37 pm

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.

Written by aheavens

July 27, 2007 at 3:03 pm