In January this year, Google South Africa in collaboration with Vodacom and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) South Africa launched Woza Online, an online business directory whose mission is to help put small and middle sized businesses online. The move has paid off as the company’s Country Manager said at an event that they have published 11 200 websites since launch (their target was 10 000). He also highlighted that there is clearly a strong appetite among SMEs to get online and take advantage of what the web has to offer.
Google made a batteries-included offer that companies have found hard to resist: The process of setting up a website takes about 45 minutes. The package comes with a free ‘companyname.wozaonline.com’ domain name, free hosting, free sms notifications whenever a customer fills a ‘contact-us’ form, a free Ad Words voucher worth R500 for advertising through the Google Advertising network all over the web and free learning materials and support available over chat or email. The only requirement is a Google account.
Woza Online is part of a larger project by Google dubbed Get Businesses Online. They have launched in about 22 countries in total and among them are Kenya and Nigeria where they got 20 000 websites registered within the first two months. Real life success stories are also there to be told.
There is of course criticism for Google’s moves and most of it is from (you guessed it) small web development companies and internet marketers (or Search Engine Optimisation specialists). They are labelling this a direct war with their businesses and with Google aiming at figures of 100 000 registered businesses by end of 2013 there surely are losses to be made. But others still argue that the developers should play along and design spectacular Woza Online pages to cover for lost business to which others said [sic] “Yes we can still help clients, but in principle Google is attempting to choke the life (and livelihood) out of the very people that give their search engine life”. I don’t have a dog in this fight because at the end of the day it’s all just business.
I don’t mean to drift from the title of the post, but there are interesting points and concerns raised by an article on the VC4Africa website today. The highlights from it are:
In Kenya[applies to the rest of Africa] , there’s a tendency for people to just wait in the wings while watching and waiting to see if someone else will take the risk. Then, once someone risks and succeeds, they’ll flood the market [with the same product]
On the issue of flooding the market with the same product once it succeeds for someone else, do read yesterday’s article.
The article also speaks about how local investors are waiting while foreign investors are coming in on the local tech scene which at the end of the day profits their home countries more than ours.
In conclusion we want to congratulate Google for helping SMEs do business online, and for launching products such as Google Trader that have helped the ordinary person find business online by way of registering even a single product they sell or service they offer. Many thanks also go to foreign investors working to put African startups on the global map. Maybe we all like it this way (local startups and investors), sitting back while someone else takes the risk and the returns thereof. Enough said.