Posted by: Nathaniel | July 9, 2008

Safaricom, Africa-tech and Google in Africa

Google Africa blog

One of the things that many Afro-optimists share is an excitement about the way that technology is providing new opportunities for the passion, energy, and talent that’s so apparent in young people across the continent.

Last week, Google announced (hattip Appfrica) that it was launching a blog dedicated entirely to its work in Africa, which has grown tremendously in the last year and includes both Google and Google.org operations. Noting that “online access to information enables people to create opportunities for themselves”, Google mentions that:

We now have offices in Nairobi and Johannesburg, and are looking to hire many more people all over the continent just as fast as we can find them (see our job openings). We have an iGoogle gadget competition going with computer science students in East Africa; we’ve launched Google Maps data for Kenya.

The head of Global Development Initiatives for Google.org also posted about a recent trip to East Africa today, ruminating on the contrast between the innovation and opportunity of young Africans with the infrastructural constraints of countries like Uganda where according to some studies 90% of the population don’t have regular access to electricity.

He also mentions the exciting Safaricom IPO in Kenya earlier this year, which was the largest in African history. Safaricom is a mobile provider (who recently teamed up with Google this year to offer free emails). As the Blog announcement mentions, while only 5% of Africans have internet access, more than 40% have mobile access. Nairobi sends more SMS messages than New York City. Mobile technology is already changing the way business is done in Africa and is one of the most exciting areas of innovation.

For those of you interested in technology in Africa, here are some of the best starting points:

Appfrica – a blog/technology networking site run by an American-born software developer living in Uganda

Afrigadget / WhiteAfrican – two different blogs run by an American who grew up in Kenya as well as African software and IT professionals

Muti – digg-like news aggregator mostly focused on African stories

Tech4Africa – a conference focused on technology in Africa happening this October

Timbuktu Chronicles – a blog written by the director of TED Global Africa 2007

Click below for a video reposted from Afrigadget about a young man who basically “pimped his ride” and turned fun into business:

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