Earlier today, we broke the news about a Google initiative that could kill web designing and web hosting entrepreneurship in Nigeria, after a tip-off from sources close to the discussions.

The project called Getting Nigerian Businesses Online (GNBO) is a Google-sponsored initiative that aims to make the Internet a way of life for every business owner.

The project seeks to provide free web design on Google Automated Site Builder, free domain for 1 year, free Unlimited Hosting, free listing on Google Maps, Free Google Apps for 10 users, and more to small businesses in Nigeria. Google has already done a test run of this initiative which has produced over 200 SME’s websites through a Do-It-Yourself approach.

We’re guessing that you’re already clapping for Google, right? Hold that clap in the air.

Apparently, Google has carefully understudied the Nigerian business environment and realised that one of the best ways to dominate the market is by driving user-generated content by getting Nigerian businesses online and eventually growing its advertising revenues.

But there was a missing piece of the jigsaw. Domain names.


Google’s plan was to partner with all the domain registrars in Nigeria in order to, as it were, drive domain name registration (.com.ng) and get small businesses to own a website for a little domain registration fee of N200 (less than $2) with all the goodies that Google would offer the small businesses.

Still doesn’t make any sense to you?

This move would have automatically made Google a ‘Super Registrar’, so to say, and domain registrars in Nigeria that participated would have become domain resellers (domain agents, if you like) to Google. Instead of owning and controlling their own turf, domain registrars would have been raped, as it were, on their own turf.

Apparently, Google tried to key into the interest of the Nigerian Internet Registration Association (NiRA) by pledging their ‘support’ for the promotion of the adoption of .ng domain names. NiRA, on their own part, pledged to offer a discount for the 1st year for participating registrars in the Project GNBO.

According to one of our sources, Google offered to buy 40,000 (.com.ng) domains at the rate of N1,000 each (currently sells for N1,500 through accredited registrars), which would provide NiRA a whooping revenue of N40 million annually.

But suddenly, Google has developed cold feet, so to say, about the way they initially planned on rolling. For some reasons unknown to us, Google has backed out of the negotiations. We’re guessing that they saw our tweets and comments from concerned people.

In an email sent out today to accredited registrars by NiRA, which was made available to Techloy, the search company said:

“We are fully committed to the success of the Get Nigerian Businesses Online Initiative and we are open to working with as many partners as possible in an effort to provide a robust value proposition to the small businesses. However, after much internal discussion, we have decided to provide the domains at cost and have the SMEs pay the standard N1,500 /domain.  Consequently, we will no longer require NIRA to provide discounted .com.ng domain names and Upperlink will remain as our only recognized registrar.”

In effect, Google was saying that they no longer need NiRA’s support and will continue with the project, but charge each business N1,500 for .com.ng domain names. From our understanding, Google had solicited the support of NiRA, some banks, and other stakeholders that bought into the vision.

And it is likely that those other partners are still on board.

It’s sad that these parties were all willing to sacrifice the future of web design and hosting in Nigeria by allowing Google to take control of the Internet ecosystem simply for short-term gains.

Really sad.