Wishful thinking has many of us thinking we are living in the post-COVID19 pandemic. Though that argument can be quickly challenged given, most countries continue to report new coronavirus infections and deaths. Albeit, the rate is considerably low compared to the figures we saw some few months back.
It might be safer to say we seem to be having the COVID-19 situation in control. That said, a lot of businesses are resuming operations. However, the business environment is anything but friendly. Some businesses will likely never resume, which means employees will never go back to their old jobs.
In Africa, the coronavirus pandemic has compounded a huge problem that was already there. The problem of unemployment, with the youths and women being the worst hit demographic.
Tech giant Google has launched an economic stimulus package to help Africa’s most vulnerable demographics in the current global pandemic face. The search engine giant has committed about $3 million funds to help small businesses, youths, and women across the continent.
The company has set aside a Ksh.300 million ($2.77 million) grant. This grant will go towards education, entrepreneurship, and women-empowerment projects across the continent. This program will help those who lost their source of income due to the pandemic start new income-generating activities.
It will also support education programs across the continent. That is, tech-supported education programs that will be mindful of measures to stop further spread of coronavirus infections. That includes online learning, putting up infrastructure to support social distancing and sanitation of the learning environment.
Google has also set aside a special fund to the tune of Ksh.25 million ($0.23 million) to address unique challenges facing women in particular attributed to COVID-19. This program aims, among other things, to help out women-led businesses recover from the difficulties brought about by the pandemic.
Although most countries across Africa recorded significantly fewer casualties than, say, North America, Europe, and some Asian countries. Their economies were, nonetheless, badly hit. That can be attributed to the stringent measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus. Measures such as:
Work from home
Cessation of learning
Closure of non-essential businesses
These measures led to severe economic implications. People were no longer spending money on non-essential goods (food, medicine, and shelter). Leading to many supporting industries suddenly facing closed taps for their source of income.
Google My Business app helping businesses get online
Other than the funds Google has provided, the search engine giant has also kickstarted a parallel program to get at least 500,000 SMEs on its Google My Business platform. The company intends to help small businesses improve their visibility online. The digital platform offers businesses a raft of digital marketing tools that can help them operate efficiently and expand their market tenfolds.
For instance, through the Google My Business platform, SMEs can quickly and affordably communicate with their target customers online. The platform also allows them to create customized posters and postings on social media.
Google has also committed Ksh.75 million ($0.69 million) IT scholarship to help youth acquire digital skills. The scholarship will target 500,000 students across the continent and seek to impart in them entry-level skills necessary to carry out IT support work. This program kicks off in November 2020. The IT-training will be conducted remotely on the e-learning platform Google for Education.