Lets cut to the chase. My answer to the question posed by the title of this post is an emphatic NO. My reasoning is very simple. Search for "online auctions" on Google and then apply the same search to 24.com. On Google surprise, surprise bidorbuy came up first and on 24.com I had to scroll to page 7 for the first entry for bidorbuy (which we know almost no one ever does).
Call me biased if you want but surely the (by quite some distance) largest and most popular online auction site in South Africa should appear at the top of the list? Maybe this will change over time but this seems highly unlikely to me. The relevancy of 24.com's results is simply not there. After this simple experience how can I now trust 24.com for any other searches I want to do. Sorry 24.com, I am not going to think twice and go to Google as my first point of call.
At least on Ananzi bidorbuy appears first but lets not let Ananzi hijack this post and talk about them another time.
I am sure 24.com have good reasons of there own to go the route they have but if I were them I wouldn't think twice about rather doing a revenue sharing deal with Google. I don't know the exact numbers but I reckon they could get at least an 80% revenue share. If that were the case surely it is a no brainer. Whatever the case, the costs involved of running your own search engine surely have to merit rather partnering with the search behemoth even if you thought you could provide as relevant results as they do.
I have this view that certain Internet businesses can be successful in a territory without having a physical presence in that territory. These are businesses where there is only an exchange of information (such as search). Whereas other Internet businesses require that the company has a physical presence in that territory (such as online marketplaces where there is normally an exchange of goods and money - even though the company is not physically selling goods themselves think about localised shipping and payment options).
Having said that it is interesting that the following South African Google job positions have been up on Google's web site for some time now. As far as I am aware they have not hired any one locally yet. I wonder if they simply have not had any quality applications yet? Whatever the reason they seem to be doing pretty well without even having a single employee in the country. I know we are paying them a lot of money every month through Google Adwords.