Google has pledged $20 million (R260 million) in grants over the next five years to non-profits working to improve lives across Africa.

This will be done through the search engine giant’s charitable arm, Google.org. The initial grants, worth $2.5 million (R32 million), are going to start-ups Gidi Mobile and Siyavula, which aim to provide free access to learning for 400 000 low-income students in SA and Nigeria.

The start-ups will also develop digital learning materials that will be free for anyone to use.

This was announced at an event in Lagos, Nigeria, where Google CEO Sundar Pichai, who was in attendance, also outlined and updated the myriad of projects the company is working on in Africa.

Another $5 million (R65 million) in grants will be given to winners of the Google.org Impact Challenge in Africa, to take place next year, where non-profits from across the continent are invited to share their ideas on how they could impact their community and make it a better place.

Previous winners in challenges included: Libraries Without Borders in France, which aimed to deploy portable libraries around the world to give refugees access to quality educationalresources; and Infoxchange in Australia, which aimed to develop a mobile directory of critical support services for the homeless.

The Alphabet-owned entity also said it planned to invest more than $3 million (R39 million) over the next three years in 60 African start-ups. This will be done through its Launchpad Accelerator Africa programme.

The initiative targets tech start-ups that are ready to scale their companies, and provides them with equity-free funding, mentorship, working space and access to expert advisers during intensive three-month programmes held twice a year.

The programmes will take place at a new Google Launchpad Space in Lagos, the first such location outside of its Silicon Valley headquarters.

In March, Google SA hosted Launchpad Start, the start-up programme aimed at early stage businesses, for the first time in Johannesburg.

Pledge exceeded

Google’s Nigeria country manager Juliet Ehimuan-Chiazor says in a statement: “By 2034, Africa is expected to have the world’s largest working-age population of 1.1 billion ? yet only three million to four million jobs are created annually.

“That means there’s an urgent need to create opportunities for the millions of people on the continent who are creative, smart and driven to succeed.”

This is why Google is taking steps to equip young Africans with the correct skills and tools needed to operate in the emerging digital economy.

Last year, Google pledged to train one million young people in digital skills across Africa and exceeded that goal within 11 months. It now plans to train another 10 million young Africans by 2022.

This training is done either in-person or online, and covers how to build a Web presence, using Google Search to find jobs, and how to use social media, among other basic skills.

The company will also provide more intense mobile developer training to 100 000 Africans, with an initial focus on Nigeria, Kenya and SA.

This article was first published by ITWeb on 31 July 2017.