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Four years on, Google sees growth in Africa

Rebecca Wanjiku | Sept. 28, 2011
Four years ago, when Google opened an office in Nairobi, Africa was largely served by satellite, the cost of connectivity was high, and very little regional content was available online.

CW: Most global companies would like to compare Africa to other markets. What is the difference?

Mucheru: Africa is different on various levels: from devices, awareness, policies, payment gateways and size of the market. For example, India has a billion people. That's a big market and it's only one country. Africa is fragmented and our challenge is covering the whole continent. In Africa, people don't have much disposable income compared to other emerging markets, but we see the great opportunity that Africa provides. There is a lot of interest in what Africa has, with its youthful population. Google is bullish in terms of being in Africa.

CW: What are the major challenges that Google is facing?

Mucheru: Lack of Public Key Infrastructure remains a security challenge; online transactions are harder to complete. In some cases a valid credit card is declined, making it hard to do business.

Intellectual Property protection is still a challenge even though governments are working on policies to guarantee protection.

Nevertheless, unless you are in Africa, you may not appreciate the continent. Unfortunately, images of pain, war, famine and corruption dominate international media coverage of the continent, masking the true story of what is happening in the region.

For international companies, you need to be there. We have seen growth and we are expecting more. This is the time to be in Africa; it takes times for the market to know you. To build your system, the earlier you start the earlier you get results. The longer you wait, the longer it takes, especially if you have to compete with other established companies.


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