Sundar Pichai, Google Chief Executive Officer recently visited Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital. During his visit, Pichai announced at a conference, plans by the internet giant to provide more than $3 million in equity-free funding and mentorship to more than 60 African start-ups over the next three years.
Pichai is the latest, in a list of Silicon Valley executives that have visited Africa in recent months. Earlier in July, Jack Ma, the CEO and founder of e-commerce company Ali Baba toured east Africa (Kenya and Rwanda) in what his close aides described as a mission to inspire young African IT entrepreneurs.
For many, Ma’s visit to Kenya, a regional hub for IT services highlighted Africa’s growing significance as an important player in the global tech revolution.
However, months before Ma’s visit, Facebook founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg stirred a media buzz with his first trip to sub-Saharan Africa by making an unannounced visit to Nigeria. Like Ma, Zuckerberg’s aides said he was in Nigeria to promote his non-profit, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, meet with software developers and learn about the local startup ecosystem.
On closer inspection however, the recent visits to Africa by the executives of some of the biggest companies in Silicon Valley should come as no surprise; Nigeria currently ranks as number one among Google users in Africa and number eight in the world, while Kenya is a world leader in mobile banking services with more than a third of the country’s population registered as users on the e-money platform M-pesa.