The health of any industry is measured by how its players re-invent their value proposition for prospective buyers. In the case of South African BPO, Gauteng Province is leading the way in this regard. While always an active domestic contact center delivery location, for a long time South Africa’s most populous province has limited its share of international outsourcing work. However, if Gauteng’s industry and political leadership play their cards right, this dynamic will soon change. The province has much to offer outsourcers, their clients, and offshore investors in many of the most sought after front-line and back-office service capabilities.
As part of a recent initiative to reduce youth unemployment announced by the Gauteng Premier’s Office, several leading BPO industry influencers from around the world will visit Johannesburg from November 14-16 for an immersion on Gauteng Province as a location for offshore outsourcing delivery. Ironically, while Gauteng is home to an estimated fourteen million people, residing primarily in Johannesburg, Tshwane (Pretoria) and several other centers, its global contact center outsourcing presence is limited. In fact, the most recent BPESA Key Indicator Report estimates that Gauteng is home to roughly one-quarter the number of international service jobs as found in the Western Cape. Given that Gauteng generates about one-third of South Africa’s GDP, this will be seen by many observers as surprising. For Gauteng’s outsourcing stakeholders, changing this measure is paramount.
Gauteng brings strong attributes to the table for prospective international outsourcers. Notable is its scalability across multiple urban locations. In addition, Johannesburg boasts the country’s largest international airport, with connections to all regions of the world, allowing ease of access for BPO executives. There have also been substantial investments in the province’s infrastructure, which have improved transport and communication. Gauteng Premier David Makhura has pledged his full support to maintaining a competitive commercial framework and the Gauteng Investment Centre acts as a one-stop shop for all things investment related. From an outsourcing perspective, the province is home to several home-grown deployments and blue-chip international captive operations, which provides Gauteng credence for prospective BPO investors.
However, for Gauteng to be successful in attracting more global front and back-office BPO players to set up shop, it must accomplish a number of things. For one, the perception around violent crime is a lingering issue. In the province’s favor, its crime rate is moving downward, relative to other parts of the country and this needs to be aggressively communicated. Equally, providing a long-term sustainable labor force from which outsourcers can draw agents and supervisors is also essential to avoid workforce shortages. The province has shown creativity in this regard with numerous impact sourcing initiatives like Harambee. This willingness to think outside the box around skills and linkage to available work opportunities will be fundamental as stakeholders seek to build the Gauteng BPO industry.
Finally, all members of this initiative should be ready to sell Gauteng to the world’s outsourcers and their clients as a strong part of Brand South Africa. Gauteng is potentially the linchpin to the country’s long-term BPO success; thus, emphasizing its labor and skill quality, investment attractiveness and openness to servicing consumers from across the English-speaking world will help drive attention, whether to a group of visiting influencers, or outsourcers looking for a new delivery destination.