In June 2022, Google announced a new initiative aimed at small businesses in Africa. The initiative was part of a month-long celebration of International Micro, Small, and Medium-Sized Business Day at the company. Micro, small, and medium-sized businesses account for a significant portion of the global economy, accounting for “90% of businesses, 60 to 70% of employment, and 50% of global GDP.” Micro, small, and medium-sized businesses continue to play an important role as the backbone of economies around the world, particularly in Africa. Consumers in Africa “purchase more than 70% of their food, beverages, and personal care products.”
Despite the rise of corporate supermarkets and retail chain stores, people remain loyal to small businesses. Transitioning this loyalty to e-commerce holds enormous promise for the continent’s economic development. South Africa had $1.8 billion in online sales in 2020, and countries like Nigeria and Kenya, where the retail sector is a major component of GDP, had 30% and 40% growth rates in 2021, respectively.
The groundwork for African e-commerce has been laid. Internet access, credit card, and bank account availability, and mobile phone usage have all increased significantly in Africa over the last decade. Google has recognized this growth opportunity in Africa, with Juliet Ehimuan, Google’s country director for West Africa, noting that “E-commerce presents an opportunity for small businesses in Africa to reach new customers and grow.”
However, many African small and medium-sized businesses have yet to tap into the online market. According to a World Trade Organization report, technical know-how, as well as concerns about cybercrime, have hampered online market penetration by small and medium-sized businesses in Africa (WTO). Fortunately, Google’s new initiative is assisting African small businesses in developing online retail presences, with the goal of “…assisting small businesses in Africa to gain the expertise to connect online, expand their customer base, and scale-up,” according to Ehimuan.
This strategy is carried out by Google in three steps. The Shopping Small Business Summit, an online career certificate course, and the Local Opportunity Finder are all part of it.
Google hosted a Shopping Small Business Summit in late June 2022. According to The Guardian, this event was a one-hour virtual training session designed to assist small and medium-sized business owners in developing the skills required to compete in the online marketplace. This training session addressed both e-commerce trends and digital marketing tools and skills.
According to The Guardian, the second component of Google’s plan to assist African small businesses in developing online retail presences is an online career certificate course. This course, unlike the Shopping Small Business Summit, has limited availability and is not free. Google, on the other hand, has offered 1,000 scholarships to Africans who want to take the course. This course will cover digital marketing and e-commerce trends in greater depth than the Small Business Summit, with the goal of preparing Africans for entry-level e-commerce jobs.
Google’s commitment to small business growth is assisting African small businesses in developing online retail presences. Small businesses are critical to Africa’s large retail sector. However, until now, the continent has lagged behind in terms of digital market space. If African businesses can take advantage of Google’s initiatives and overcome the barriers that are impeding e-commerce on the continent, they will be able to scale their operations and expand their consumer bases.