Africa: Global Players No Longer Staying Away
By Vinay Subbaramaiah, Director of BPO, ITES Techno Brain Group
For ages, Africa was described as a dark continent but that term does not fit anymore. With the backing of various funding bodies, the majority of countries are actively racing for development to reach the pace of the rest of the world. Global players are no longer keeping themselves away because of concerns over political stability, technology limitations or health-related matters.
Now is the time for Africa.
According to an article by the World Economic Forum narrating capital cities, leading financial centers account for a large part of the GDP of African countries. For example, if Lagos were a country, it would be the seventh largest economy in Africa, after Nigeria, South Africa, Egypt, Algeria, Angola and Morocco. In effect, it would be the fourth largest sub-Saharan economy.
Combined with the continent’s average literacy rate of 62 percent, Africa is a place that should – and will – be recognized as the next destination for BPO growth.
A key feature of globalization is connectivity, as illustrated by the expansion of marine and terrestrial fiber optic cables. This offers unprecedented broadband infrastructure and opportunities to master the digital revolution in Africa. Many of the countries in Africa have a good talent base, English and French-speaking abilities, better infrastructure and competitive pricing per GB of data. With global players like Microsoft, Oracle, Google and others establishing their development and testing centers in the continent, this should in itself be a testimony of Africa’s readiness to cater to the global needs of outsourcing.
Impact Sourcing (see related article on South Africa) is a buzz word with many buyer communities in large- and medium-sized corporations, which aligns with their social responsibility sourcing aspects. Instead of providing grants or donations, foundations and other NGOs are promoting Impact Sourcing, which provides employment to underprivileged or marginalized communities. This practice provides employees with the necessary job-related training and makes them efficient to earn their living. As a Chinese proverb says, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
Poverty and the unemployment rate in sub-Saharan Africa are expected to continue on its downward trajectory, which began in 2012, reaching 10.9 percent in 2016 and decreasing slightly to 10.8 percent the following year. However, the unemployment outlook for youth in major countries of the region remains quite mixed, an International Labor Organization (ILO) report finds.
Africa, the world’s youngest region, continues to be confronted with high levels of unemployment, vulnerable employment and working poverty with little signs of potential recovery even though it possesses the necessary infrastructure, talent and delivery abilities. These aspects best suit buyers with a focus on Impact Sourcing to look at African providers for BPO services. Establishing delivery partnerships with native African BPO providers can help build the African employment rate and develop GDP by service exports.
Thanks to colonial rule in the continent for ages, people in most parts of Africa speak better English with a neutral accent that helps Europeans and Americans understand them. Call center work can be supported locally rather than sending calls to Asia.
The skill sets, technology and connectivity available in Africa also can make it a hub for Human Resource, treasury activity, finance and administration back office activities, and even back-end needs for innovations and product development. With such large business requirements, finding a credible and stable partner from Africa is no longer a challenge.
Homegrown service providers, who understand the pulse of BPO and Knowledge Process Outsourcing (KPO) operations in the continent, can easily provide such needs and skill sets. By doing this, companies providing BPO or KPO in Africa can generate revenue without much job creation and that cost efficiency can be transferred into end-product cost and time-to-market.
Inbound support is now a means of revenue loss for any business pre-billing but what is coming next? The most probable answer is omnichannel support or optimized solutions, which do not call for any support. Optimized solutions are a bit challenging.
A decade back when social media came into the picture, probably no one, including its founders might have thought of such platforms being used for customer service, but now they are. As much as there is a question mark to what channels are next, there is the option of Africa being utilized to optimize cost and enhance quality because of the eagerness of the continent and its leaders to get there.
About the Author:
Vinay Subbaramaiah is Director of BPO for Techno Brain Group. He is a project, process and supply chain management professional with strengths in areas of strategy to optimize commercial success. He is an engineer with a master’s degree in Project Management.