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Google Launches Loans, Grants and Training to Help MENA Businesses Recover From Pandemic

‘Grow Stronger with Google’ is the internet giant’s new initiative targeting MENA region SMEs, with an aim to help them bounce back from the negative effects the global pandemic has had on their businesses.

Ever the backbone of the MENA region’s tech industry, Google announced today a new initiative designed to help tech and tech-enabled startups and SMEs recover from the economic hardships presented by the global pandemic over the last year. Dubbed ‘Grow Stronger with Google’, the initiative looks to accelerate economic recovery across the region by offering digital tools, loans, grants and training modules.

Announced in an online press conference ‘Grow Stronger with Google’ (called Entaleq ma3 Google in Arabic) is designed to boost digital transformation and equip SMEs and entrepreneurs with the skills and resources needed to weather these trying times. The initiative works on three distinct tracks: Digital Skills Training, Business Mentorship and Providing Access to Capital.

In Egypt, the Digital Skills Training component of the initiative seeks to train 100,000 students, artisans and budding entrepreneurs in digital marketing, teaming up with the Ministry of Youth and Sports, the Ministry of Tourism and the Egyptian Tourism Federation. A second programme in Egypt looks to train 70,000 developers, with a focus on women, in Flutter, Machine Learning and other fields that will prepare them for future opportunities. 

In Saudi Arabia, 50,000 will receive digital marketing training in partnership with the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (Atta Digital), the Ministry of Tourism, and Wadi Makkah. A further 140,000 Saudi developers will be trained in advanced digital skills. Meanwhile, in the UAE, the programme will target mainly students, with partnerships with the University of Sharjah and Ajman University, among others. In both the UAE and Saudi Arabia, Google will host virtual training sessions for tech and tech-enabled businesses on the topic of Cloud computing.

As for mentorship, Google.org (Google’s non-profit arm) will be providing $1.1 million in financial grants to regional organisations including Mercy Corps Arab Tourism Organization and Youth Business International, to mentor businesses and entrepreneurs across the region. 

In terms of providing access to capital, ‘Grow Stronger With Google’ targets Egyptian businesses in particular, offering up to $2 million in micro-loans (ranging from $200 - $5000 per entity) to support thousands of underserved businesses. These loans will be applied for and distributed through KIVA, a Silicon Valley-based microfinancing platform. While other MENA countries are not targeted with the loan scheme, Google looks to digitise thousands of small and medium businesses in the UAE and KSA by getting 50,000 and 100,000 businesses, respectively, online through Google My Business and other tools and training modules.

"Online tools have been a life-line for many during the pandemic. Making the most of the online opportunity can help people, businesses and communities in the region bounce back stronger,” says Lino Cattaruzzi, Managing Director for Google in the Middle East and North Africa. "Through our program, we will help people learn new skills and find jobs, and help businesses grow online, especially those in the retail and tourism sectors that have been most affected. 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’ve seen during the crisis."

‘Grow Stronger With Google’ also includes a new Google tool designed specifically for SMEs and growing companies called Market Finder - an AI powered tool that scans a business’ products and services on the company’s website and generates a heat map of which markets and territories are best suited for them to expand into. In the UAE and KSA, this service is complemented by an initiative to give retailers free access to list their products on Google Shopping.

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