Google has launched Grow Stronger with Google, a new initiative with two goals in mind. First, to accelerate the Middle East and North Africa’s digital transformation. Second, to help local economies recover from the impact of the global pandemic.
The role played by digital and online tools during the lockdown is equally important on the road towards sustainable economic recovery.Lino Cattaruzzi, Managing Director, Google in the Middle East and North Africa
As part of the initiative, Google has set out several ambitious goals. It aims to teach one million people or companies digital skills by the end of 2021. Google will also provide around $16 million in grants, loans and credits to support local governments, businesses and individuals.
“We’re living in unprecedented times. The lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic saw us using online tools and technology in new ways and often in ways we never thought imaginable as we connected with loved ones, worked, studied, learned new skills and supported our favourite local businesses. The role played by digital and online tools during the lockdown is equally important on the road towards sustainable economic recovery.” Lino Cattaruzzi, Managing Director, Google in the Middle East and North Africa, wrote on Google’s Arabia Blog.
Digital transformation with education and investment
To teach digital skills, Google will collaborate with several regional organizations including the Ministry of Youth & Sports in Egypt, Saudi Arabia’s Atta Digital Initiative and NAMA Women Advancement Establishment in the UAE.
With these organizations, Google aims to provide digital marketing workshops to 300,000 students and businesses. Also, it will train 400,000 software developers, especially focusing on women.
Boosting its training program further, Google.org will donate $1.1 million to organizations including Mercy Corps, Arab Tourism Organization and Youth Business International to offer entrepreneurs mentorship opportunities.
As both consumers and companies shift their focus online, Google wants to help local businesses establish an online presence. So the company aims to get 150,000 businesses in Saudi Arabia and the UAE online in the next 12 to 18 months.
Aside from providing training and services, Google is partnering with Kiva, an online lending platform, to provide $3 million in loans to businesses affected by the pandemic. $2 million of this will specifically go to businesses in Egypt.
Tech Companies x MENA
Grow Stronger with Google adds to the growing list of investments major tech companies have made in the MENA region. In September, Facebook launched its #LoveLocal campaign to support small businesses affected by the pandemic. In April, Microsoft collaborated with the Egyptian government to provide 25 million students with free office programs. Back in 2018, Google itself donated $1 million to Injaz to provide a free digital skills platform in Arabic.
The bigger picture
Major tech companies like Google providing training, tools and investment is a positive development in a region where so many lack essential digital skills. For example, a 2017 McKinsey report found that only 1.7% of the MENA’s workforce were deemed ‘digital talent’. What’s more, only 38% of the region’s youth believe their education gives them the skills needed in the workplace.
Moreover, Google’s investment is welcome in a region severely impacted by the pandemic. According to global charity Oxfam, the MENA region could see a 45% reduction in foreign investment and 1.7 million job losses this year.
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