Google on Wednesday announced new initiatives to support small retail businesses and offered 1,000 scholarships to business owners in Africa.
Juliet Ehimuan, Google Country Director for West Africa, said in a statement that it was part of a month-long commemoration of International Micro, Small, and Medium-sized Businesses (SMB) Day in June.
Ms Ehimuan said the programmes commemorating the International SMB Day reaffirms Google’s dedication to ensure that small retail businesses on the continent acquire the necessary digital technology, tools and training to thrive and be more resilient.
She said this includes a one-hour virtual training event, tagged: the ‘Shopping Small Business Summit’, aimed at helping SMB owners develop skills and tools to compete online.
She said that topics would include e-commerce trends and digital marketing, open to all who register at Google Shopping mail.
According to her, Google has also partnered with Coursera, a well known open online course provider, to develop an online career certificate digital marketing and e-commerce for SMEs, and is offering 1,000 scholarships to Africans who wish to attend.
“E-commerce presents an opportunity for small businesses in Africa to reach new customers and grow.
‘’Through the digital marketing, e-commerce career certificates, specialised trainings and 1,000 scholarships, we want to be able to assist small businesses in Africa gain the expertise to connect online, expand their customer base and scale up.
‘’The certificate course is the latest in a series of initiatives aimed at preparing participants for entry-level jobs,’’ she said.
According to her, this month also sees the debut of ‘Local Opportunity Finder’, a new tool that evaluates a Google Business Profile and makes personalised recommendations for changes.
Ms Ehimuan said that the tool evaluates changes or recommendations that a business owner might make to enhance how their business profile looks to consumers in Google Search.
The director also said that free, one-week-long Hustle Academy in June would focus on essential skills that would help small and medium-sized retail businesses (SMBs) build the skills they need to grow.
According to her, Africa’s growing young population and urbanisation present huge expansion opportunities for small retail businesses.
She said South Africa had almost 2,000 shopping malls covering over 24 million square metres.
Ms Ehimuan said that wholesale and retail were the third largest contributors to Nigeria’s GDP, with more than 90 per cent of the industry made up of informal merchants.
According to her, while Kenya, with an e-commerce market growth rate of 44 per cent in 2021, has seen a steady rise in the number of outlets over the last five years.
Ms Ehimuan said that e-commerce markets in Kenya and Nigeria increased by 40 per cent and 30 per cent, respectively, in 2021, while online sales in South Africa increased by 66 per cent from 2019 to 2020, reaching more than $1.8 billion.
“As more consumers on the continent continue to search for goods and services online, it is critical that small retail businesses learn how to better harness online tools for growth,” Ms Ehimuan said.
According to her, Google’s ongoing commitment to supporting small businesses in Africa is visible through initiatives such as Google Hustle Academy, Google Business Profile, Market Finder and Market Kit.
Google’s mission is to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.