On Wednesday, January 27, 2021, Corporate Council on Africa (CCA) hosted an exclusive high-level dialogue with Uhuru Kenyatta, President of the Republic of Kenya, and Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and Alphabet, focused on how digital technologies and partnerships can unlock new pathways for economic growth in Africa. The dialogue was moderated by award winning journalist, Zain Verjee, Founder & CEO of Zain Verjee Group.
CCA President and CEO, Florizelle Liser kicked off the dialogue, expressing that CCA was pleased to facilitate the conversation and connect the Silicon and Savannah Valleys. Ms. Liser noted the significance of U.S.-Africa partnership, stating, “If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it is that we are better off working together, and our ability to collaborate is critical for post pandemic economic recovery both here in the United States and in Africa.”
During the discussion, President Kenyatta underlined the notable impact of technology as a driver of growth in Kenya over the past 20 years. “Today as we speak, as a result of digitization, technology, internet penetration, almost 95% of all Kenyans have access to financial services as opposed to less than 20 years ago when only 25% of the population had a bank account.”
Sundar Pichai, CEO Google and Alphabet shared in President Kenyatta’s optimism and emphasized Google’s commitment to supporting governments, businesses, and job seekers in Kenya and across Africa. Last year, in response to COVID-19, Google launched a 1 Million USD grant for Kenyan women financially affected by the pandemic, a digital hub to help 300,000 Kenyan SMEs get online, and initiatives to help students learn remotely.
Looking to the future, President Kenyatta stressed the need for collaboration in translating the facilitative role of technology in Kenya into economic opportunity and growth. “We want to work together, partnering with American companies and American companies partnering with Kenyan SMEs. This is where the true growth potential exists so that the facilitative work we have done is actually now leapfrogged upon by the opportunities created by the linkages that we can establish, through the work of, for example, the Corporate Council on Africa.”
Mr. Pichai in explaining what Google is doing to support businesses in these challenging times, announced a new 10 million USD fund to support economic recovery in Kenya. He said “it is comprised of 3 things — 2 million USD to local non -profits which are serving underserved communities in Kenya, 3 million USD to SMEs… and 5 million to support technology startups to help them grow and develop.”
Ms. Liser concluded the discussion by restating CCA’s commitment to promoting linkages between Kenyan SMEs and U.S. markets. She noted that working with the new Biden Administration, “CCA will continue to engage and support our member companies and U.S. and African public and private sector partners as we all work to drive economic recovery and develop solutions to promote investment and economic development in Africa.”