Google reveals $13mn+ aid initiative for MENA region

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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Tech giant Google unveiled its largest program in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region to boost economic recovery by digital transformation through contributing with instruments, training and financial grants worth more than $13 million to empower local companies and job seekers.

Google’s initiative comes as the global economy is disrupted by the pandemic leaving millions of people unemployed.

Google said that the monetary aid includes loans, ad grants and credits to different states, social institutions and companies affected by COVID-19. This is in addition to the ongoing commitment of the company to local and regional enterprises in the Mena region.

By listing them on Google My Business and training them in digital marketing, the company will get 150,000 businesses in Saudi Arabia and the UAE online through its Grow Stronger with Google initiative. To facilitate this process, it has partnered with the Saudi Post and the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

It will also disburse grants worth $1.1 million to organizations that help mentor entrepreneurs around the country, such as Mercy Corps, the Arab Tourism Organization and Youth Business International.

Google is committed to helping almost one million people and businesses in the Mena region learn digital skills and expand their businesses by the end of next year as part of its region-wide initiative.

Lino Cattaruzzi
Lino Cattaruzzi
MD – Google, MENA region

“Online tools have been a lifeline for many during the pandemic. Making the most of the online opportunity can help people, businesses and communities in the UAE and the wider region bounce back stronger. Through this programme, the Alphabet-owned company will help people learn new skills, find jobs and help businesses grow online, especially those in the retail and tourism sectors that have been badly affected”.

According to the surveys conducted on the UAE unemployment situation, a massive 72 percent said that seeking a job now compared to the pre-covid era was “much more difficult” or a “little more difficult”. In the UAE, 41 percent said it is more difficult now than before the pandemic to find a new career.

Mr. Cattaruzzi said, “We remain fundamentally optimistic about the future of this region, and confident that working together with local partners, we can boost recovery and build on the rapid acceleration of tech adoption we have seen during the crisis”.

Google will train 400,000 developers in advanced digital skills such as machine learning and artificial intelligence, with an emphasis on women. Out of these, 140,000 people will be in Saudi Arabia.

An accelerator program has also been launched by the search engine giant, through which Google’s expert employees will mentor and train regional digital marketing start-ups.

“The first cohort of 15 start-ups will be selected in November and will last for three months,” said Mr. Cattaruzzi.

The firm has also implemented its Market Finder tool, which will help local companies grow into new markets and attract global customers. It will be available initially in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Google will provide $3 million in loans in collaboration with Kiva, a California-based online lending network, to fund thousands of underserved small businesses in the region.

Hamad Buamim, president and chief executive of Dubai Chamber said, “As we work towards our new target of helping over 50,000 local companies grow … we are raising the bar even higher … and leveraging our strategic partnership with Google to support businesses with digital marketing and training”.