Intense competition in India’s business process outsourcing (BPO) industry has encouraged technology firm Spanco Ltd. to expand to Africa where it expects to earn nearly half of its profits within two years.
Pravin Kumar, chief executive officer of Spanco BPO Services reported earlier this year that his company sees Africa as a solid opportunity for the company due to its proximity and almost similar time difference to the firm’s major source markets — Europe and the United States — compared with India.
“By 2013, we see our BPO business in Africa generating a turnover of about US$ 100 million. This year we will do about US$ 40 million,” said Kumar. “In two years’ time at least 40% of our profits will come from here (Africa) purely in the BPO business.”
It’s yet another marker of the economic development now enabled by the availability of low-cost and reliable, high-speed internet access and improved international voice and data services between eastern and southern Africa and the world’s key commercial and financial centres.
Africa has long possessed the key requirements to become a major player in the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) sector – a large pool of English language speakers, growing numbers of graduates, good basic infrastructure, encouraging governments. The missing piece of the puzzle has, until now, been affordable and dependable international bandwidth.
In the past year, since the launch of the EASSy network, BPO has gained increasing focus in sub-Saharan Africa. In January, the South African Department of Trade and Industry introduced incentive schemes by which it hopes to increase the number of BPO jobs to 40,000 by 2015 – making the industry a key socio and economic driver for the country.
Zimbabwe, which is estimated to have the continent’s highest literacy rate and most articulate English speakers, is keen to leverage its existing strengths and take advantage of the new technologies available to the country. The Ugandan government also launched a BPO program in Uganda at the start of 2011, allocating resources to train up to 3,000 graduates in BPO studies through the National Information & Technology Authority. Initially two call centres were to be set up in Kampala, with an expansion of jobs to 7,000 by the end of 2012.
And the Kenyan Ministry of Information and Communications has stated that the introduction of fibre-optic cables such as EASSy have ‘astronomically improved the quality, affordability and availability of broadband’ and are one of the factors behind the growth of the BPO industry in the country – “a new, but rapidly growing economic sector, with unprecedented government support, bursting with talent, innovation and entrepreneurship, driven by IT-enabled services that are transforming businesses and lives nationally and internationally”.