Google Maps Now Has Nigerian Accents, Launches Travel Mode For African Motorcyclists

Written by Peter Pedroncelli
Jumo undersea internet cable Google maps
Google CEO Sundar Pichai has been clear that Nigeria is an important market for the tech giant, launching new products and features including Nigerian accents on Google Maps and Google Assistant. Pichai speaks during a product event, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016, in San Francisco. AP Photo/Eric Risberg

Google is offering more services customized to local African needs to attract more users in the world’s fastest-growing region of mobile subscriptions.

In a first for Africa, the tech giant unveiled a new feature that allows users to hear directions and communication on Google apps in English spoken with a Nigerian accent.

Google is also showcasing new products and tools for African consumers including a dedicated travel mode for motorcycles, expanded street view imagery and informal transit route, according to a Google blog post.

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The Nigerian voice is part of the Google Maps package and is also available with Google Assistant.

Directions and local street names, previously mispronounced by a default American or British accent, are now offered in a familiar accent that is more representative of how Nigerians speak, according to Quartz.

Google Maps for motorcycles in parts of Africa

Announcing the new developments at a Google for Nigeria event in Lagos, the company unveiled a dedicated travel mode in Google Maps to provide directions and navigation for motorcycles in Nigeria, ITWebAfrica reports.

This feature has also launched in other West and East African countries including Benin, Ghana, Rwanda, Togo, and Uganda.

Google’s motorcycle navigation mode, which features directions that cars would not be able to follow, coincides with the rise of the motorcycle ride-hailing industry in Africa. 

Gridlocked traffic and a growing population of 190 million people have been catalysts for an industry that includes around 8 million informal motorcycle taxis in Nigeria, according to CNBCAfrica.

Four major motorcycle ride-hailing firms now offer services in Nigeria’s commercial capital, Lagos. raised a $7 million Series A funding round in June and announced plans to expand into Ghana and Ivory Coast, TechCrunch reports.

Nigerian ride-hailing firm Gokada raised a $5.3 million Series A investment in May.

Google is expanding its street view imagery to Nigerian cities outside of Lagos including Abuja, Benin City, Enugu and Ibadan.

It is also partnering with Nigerian startup Road Preppers Technologies Ltd to gather data on the informal routes available to reach their destination and aims to give users the best options available based on traffic, weather and road conditions, Techpoint reports.

During the Google for Nigeria event, the U.S. search engine pledged an additional $4 million for youth development, according to Reuters.

In 2017, the Silicon Valley-based tech firm committed to training 10 million Africans on digital skills over five years. Two years into that commitment, Google claims that 4 million people have been trained, including 15,000 developers.