‘Nigeria has contributed largely towards our mission’
At the recent
annual Google conference in Lagos, Nigeria, Joe Mucheru spoke to
Funmilayo Ajala about Google’s plan for the African market.
Can you expatiate on Google coming to Nigeria, and what do you hope to achieve in the long and short term?
Google’s mission is
to organise the world’s information makes it universally available and
Africa today represents a significant part of the world’s population,
15 percent of the world population but only two percent of the Internet
strategy we have is to see that number increase from two percent to a
larger number. So we have initiatives, access and as I mentioned,
relevance and sustainability to reduce or remove the barriers that
exists that are currently stopping people from going online.
Those are the
activities that we are working on and in the long run, we hope that
there is going to be revenues generated out of Africa, out of Nigeria.
But for now, the primary focus is to see increase in users and usage of
the Internet so that is what we are currently working on.
mentioned that it’s all about the data and not the money. It is a
common knowledge that Google is the largest advertising company in the
whole world and not a search company. Can you explain how the search
and advertising are interwoven and which one takes priority for Google?
Focus on the user
and all others will follow. What we are as a company is a search
company and so we organise the world’s information so that it becomes
easier for people to find what they are looking for. And I think for
Africa that is one of the biggest need, either been found or finding
what someone is looking for. So we do very well in terms of search,
then when it comes to advertising, we provide relevance.
For instance, when
someone searches for furniture, the individual will be able to find
advertisement that are relevant to furniture and it is only when the
person click on the ad to show that they are interested in it that it
becomes a transaction. So in this case for us, they are much
intertwined, but it’s more about relevance. We don’t give you
information that you are not looking for. So when you are searching for
specific products like a holiday, the only ads you will see are travel
ads and holiday ads that are actually relevant.
mentioned that your main priority is Internet accessibility in Nigeria,
which companies are you partnering with right now to achieve this?
The key thing is
about partnership. We are partnering with the different players in the
Internet space to make sure that there is more usage of the Internet.
So as more investors become aware of this opportunity then they
actually invest more. There are more investments going into the cables
and you’ve seen their operators now competing with each other by
rolling out 3G services. In terms of the last mile, you’ve seen a lot
of cables being built across the different states but mostly between
Abuja and Lagos. So that infrastructure is being put in place and so we
partner with different operators in terms of working together at the
exchange point by providing information on best use cases.
We provide Internet
engineering support and as you’ve seen in this event, working with
developers also, creating the value added application that can be used
on this infrastructure that is being built. There are many prom
approaches that are actually being developed right now that is bringing
in more usage and more infrastructure.
conference is leading to a number of startups, following the tech news
lately; Google has been acquiring quite a number of startups, what is
Google’s plan in aiding tech entrepreneurs in Nigeria?
I mentioned Umbuno
which is one of the projects that Google is working on. Umbuno is a
platform you can turn your tech idea and vision into a business.
It is really about
trying to get tech hubs built which is bring all the players together,
Angel investors, Venture Capitalists. The key issue has been more
awareness, people have not been aware of what the opportunities are. I
think as more awareness comes into play then people will start
investing in that space.
When we look at
Google in terms of its investments and how we acquire, I think that’s
something that’s ongoing throughout and it goes on across the world. So
there is a team of people who just hunt around for business
opportunities for investment and I can’t say that we are or we are not
doing anything in Nigeria in that space. But I know that there are
businesses that are doing successfully well here in Nigeria. Nollywood
Love has actually done quite well. But I don’t believe that exit in two
years is primarily the end game, I think this market is just beginning
and I think it’s going at a certain exponential growth, anyone that
exit in two years would have left a lot of money on the table.
have any plan of setting up tech hubs where tech entrepreneurs who
don’t really have money to build up capitals can come in and work,
meet, network because of the challenges they do face?
earlier on about the Umbuno project. It is about showing examples of
successful startups, working together here with a community of Angel
investors, Venture capitalists, working with them in the tech hub which
then we allow that community to grow so that you can have the
investment, you can have mentorship going on, you can have actual money
and acquisitions and aggregations actually happening within those tech
hubs. So there have been quite a few that has appeared in Africa
already. Kenya has Afrilabs, iHub, and South Africa has some of the
labs as well. So various have appeared and we’ve seen it as an
interesting model and we are supporting that. We are putting in some
money towards supporting some of these hubs. Not really in building
them but more in terms of partnering with the Angel Investors and
Venture Capitalists to invest in the key businesses.
How has your presence in Nigeria contributed to the Google market worldwide, is there a percentage?
I think for us, we
love people being online, we love people getting on to the Internet.
Three years ago, Nigeria was having about 11 million users and now it
is 44 million users. So that is a huge number that has actually come
online. Nigeria has contributed largely towards our mission of seeing
more users coming online and more users’ usage.
How often do you plan to be doing this kind of event?
For now, it is on a
yearly basis. Like last year we met with about 3, 000 developers, which
is a significant number, and we’ve seen more at this event. Hopefully
we will have more at next year’s. We will continue to give support.
Google’s plan to aid small and medium scale business by passing onto
them the knowledge of what Google tools can do for their business?
There is a whole
initiative in the education sector, which is talking about the Google
ambassadors from the universities. That is the workforce that goes out
to educate people. There is the Google Access University programme
where we provide bandwidth and Google apps services to universities. We
expect that this year the programme would have reached 100,000
students. They are Google ambassadors that go out to talk to different
businesses on how to use the Google products, there is the one we call
‘getting Africa businesses online’ which last year we got about 200
businesses together and we are able to show them how they can build
their online presence, they got domain names, they got their businesses
online, created a website. There is a community that is growing and
developers are also coming in and seeing business opportunities in the
community. This type of event brings them together; there is a whole
lot of conversation and engagement that is ongoing. That is how we are