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Building an ‘African Google’ What would it take?.

December 31, 2020 By Chukky Derrick

About an African Google digitalization came to the world from the early dot com boom of the 2000s. The growth of the world wide web and all its prospects. This ‘information technology bubble’ as of the time had all the potential as it probably showed. With the rise of internet giants like Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Google. These companies in their dynamics and all it portrays with regards to society has really expressed the potential seen decades ago from their initial point of origin. The exponential growth of these companies as seen in their massive sizes. One particular company to talk about, is the tech titan Google. The company’s main goal which is to organize all the information in the globe, began when two students in a college struck up a partnership. That little agreement grew into the wonder it is today.

Apart from its famous search engine which its widely known for, in fact the word Google was added in the Oxford English dictionary in the year 2006, that’s how powerful that word is, but Google does a lot much more than running a search engine. The company is mainly into innovation, creating of quality services for customers and users, and so much more. ‘From the garage to the GooglePlex’ as it is famously displayed on their about page shows the story and journey of the tech giant in a few words.

Following the story and dynamics of Google and though the company serves the entire planet I was forced to wonder, what if there was an ‘African Google?’ or a company very similar to Google but mainly of African origin?

When it comes to providing the other aspects of Google like promoting innovation and technology there are normally scattered bodies that take part in this sort of activity for example, The Tony Elumelu foundation, though having a good network, it is not a start-up. Just a brand of a media personality.

With the current state of Africa though with poor power supply and other issues it is still quite possible to create an ‘African Google’, because majority of Africans access Google services and use their products. As of this year 2020 Google launched ‘People cards’ to enable Africans appear on Google search. Google search on a general note does not expertly serve Africans. Upscaling this could be a way to bolster development in the continent. While Google offers it’s services in several local languages the search queries cannot still be performed in those languages. Google launching ‘people’s cards’ is a welcome development. This feature would use Google’s algorithm to make what ever is indexed appear in the box.  Irrespective of whatever business you are doing or just a personality you would get indexed and be on Google’s SERP.

African google

Now it’s crucial to ask, is it possible, by any means for there to be an African start-up with the capabilities of doing such? Though it’s much harder now to build a search engine from scratch. Achieving this feat might actually mean pioneering in the early 2000s but as of that time digitalization had barely penetrated the African continent. What of from the mid 2000s? That’s a quite perfect time. To achieve this feat there are quite some things to clear and table, the first one is:

How exactly does one build a search engine?

Africa needs its own search engine like China does with Baidu and Russia with Yandex. This would improve well tailored and in-depth search of African resources not even known to western search engines. Building a search engine from scratch, is no easy feat. it’d cost at least $200m annually to just maintain a quality search engine, in Most cases people do not build, they just integrate a Bing API and serve search results from Bing.

Nonetheless, not wanting to get too technical but it is possible to build from scratch. Google, initially called Backrub was a simple website with a crawler that ranked pages and as of the time the internet wasn’t as complex as it is now, just basic html web pages. To build a search engine in a continent like Africa as of the current time would require some basic infrastructure, let’s just imagine our start-up is just a simple basic company, just got funded and hasn’t gone through any series of advancement. This company could begin by indexing directories of African owned companies and businesses, no matter how little they are but it is a start with this such a company could gain traction but though it is not imperative that this company takes the exact footsteps of Google but what we want to achieve the same probable goals which is mainly promotion of technology, innovation and digitalization – with obvious results, this can be achieved by branching into the popular African mainstream economy like health care, mining and even education. Next is the issue of African diversity and under development.

Underdevelopment, Diversity and scaling of Technology in Africa

One major problem that has stifled the progress of technology in Africa is under development. This year Google just added data centers to their Cloud infrastructure in different locations across the globe and they released an image showing the various locations, if you study the image you would notice something quite striking:


African Google
Source : Google

This is just one of the many scenarios where technology finds it difficult to find it’s footing in Africa (though Microsoft has a data center in South Africa). Underdevelopment is one problem; another is diversity and differences and possible disunity in the continent. These factors would definitely affect the positive growth of such a company because it basically deals with information gathering and accessing. Another issue is inclusiveness the natural tendency of Africans to be online is generally low. In context of this article and in mainstream everyday living today, digitalization should be widely accepted across the continent as this would definitely bolster the probabilities of possible innovation.

Identifying Technologically Creative Africans and Giving them a Voice

Google as a company in general is very successful because of its flatness in its corporate culture, employees can share information and ideas, literally everyone has a voice. This kind of environment is optimum for nurturing creativity and innovation. Google’s other characteristics are emphasis on excellence and supports family rapport and bonding.

These factors are gotten by adopting a good corporate structural basis for every single one who works for the company regardless of background. This would favor massive expansive expansion of the company regardless of countries across the continent, there would also be multiple hubs and creative offices across the continent. Creativity is often undervalued and underestimated in Africa, due to certain factors people end up leaving the continent only to excel in environments that nurtures creativity across the globe. Such a company with one goal should identify these creatives and invest in them and they should be given a ground to thrive by governments. This company would be the most leading in technological innovation across the continent. The prospects of an African search engine has enormous potential as currently till date there is no mention of anyone being created, The space is very virgin for an African version.

African Google
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