Google has announced a $1m grant to support female entrepreneurs in Africa on the occasion of this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD).

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In a statement on Tuesday, the search giant said the gesture, inspired by Google.org, its philanthropic arm, is part of the company’s new initiatives to support women-owned businesses.

Mojolaoluwa Aderemi-Makinde, head of the company’s brand and reputation in Africa, said the move would bridge an extant gap in terms of opportunities available for male and female entrepreneurs in the continent

“Research shows that 58% of small and medium-sized business (SMB) entrepreneurs in Africa are women,” she said.

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“Despite this, women-run businesses show, on average, 34% lower profits than those run by their male counterparts. They are also less likely to receive funding and investment.

“This is why we are announcing a series of initiatives today, aimed at providing the support women need to grow their businesses.”

In addition to the grant, Makinde said Google also launched #LookMeUp, a campaign to showcase women entrepreneurs and tell their stories.

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According to her, the campaign would spotlight women like Vivian Nwakah in Nigeria who launched Medsaf, a pharma supply chain solution to help Nigerians get access to quality pharmaceutical health care services.

Others are Mary Mwange, CEO and founder of Data Integrated, who is driving innovation in the mobile payments sector in Nairobi, Kenya, and Mosa Mkhize in South Africa.

Mkhize launched Origins Publishers to provide her children and other kids with books in their home languages in South Africa.

Makinde added that Google is also providing free tools to support women entrepreneurs to grow their businesses.

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She said the company has launched an intensive programme to drive the discovery of women-owned businesses through Google business profiles.

Makinde disclosed that Google has also dedicated the March cohort of the Hustle Academy to women-owned SMBs.

She said the academy, launched in February, is a free, week-long boot camp designed to help SMBs build the expertise they need to expand their businesses.

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