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Google offers helping hand to half-million SMEs in SA

Google has announced a range of measures to help SMEs recover from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, including new business tools

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Google has announced new tools to help businesses, job seekers,  educational institutions and vulnerable populations to recover from the impact of the Covid-19 crisis. 

The initiatives address the need for funding, training and services across various sectors, including support for 500,000 small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and 25,000 teachers.

Among other, Google has set up a digital hub to provide free tools and resources to businesses and individuals. Google South Africa country director Alistair Mokoena says the hub will help 500,000 small businesses get online or improve their digital presence through Google My Business (GMB), which helps businesses connect with users.

“Small businesses have been hardest hit during this period,” he says. “Many of them have had to figure out quickly how to pivot their operations to a ‘digital-first’ approach. Yet, there remains a gap between those who can access these online opportunities and those who can’t. That’s the gap we want to bridge with this initiative.”

Asked whether the initiatives could suffer the same fate as Google’s Woza Online project that gave 40,000 businesses websites in 2012, only for the plug to be pulled just over two years later, Goolge spokespersons gave the assurance that that the resources were “definitely here to stay”. The initiative, they said, was supported by a “massive team”.

Google is launching a new Marketing Kit tool to help people to put together marketing kits for their businesses, along with a Market Finder tool, which includes insights for negotiating a post-Covid environment. It will help with localisation, international payments and logistics for African businesses looking to reach new customers around the world. Using information from their Google My Business profile, the tool helps businesses keep customers informed with news, and to create custom posters and social posts.

In an effort to help job seekers acquire new skills while they look for opportunities, Google is providing underserved communities and job seekers with R12.5-million ($750,000) in  IT support scholarships through Google.org across Africa. Job seekers can also access the Grow with Google training portal for help in growing their careers or businesses at their own pace and through flexible and personalised training courses. 

For educational institutions and teachers, Google is working with partners across Africa, through Google for Education, to help deploy its suite of education products in schools, aiming at helping 500,000 students continue learning. To help teachers keep teaching, Google aims to give 25,000 educators access to free online training sessions and resources, such as Teach From Anywhere.

Google.org has set aside R50 million ($3 million) in grants to nonprofits that support education, entrepreneurship and women empowerment across Africa.  R8.3 million ($500,000) of that is going towards a grant to the Praekelt Foundation (a software development non-profit that builds open-source, scalable mobile technologies and solutions to improve the health and wellbeing of underprivileged people) in order to help train micro and small businesses in South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria. 

An additional R8.3 million ($500,000)  grant is going to Youth Employment Services in order to provide twelve-month employment opportunities and digital skills to young black people in South Africa. 

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