Few things are sadder in the outsourcing world than when a location fails to meet its delivery potential. Usually, in jurisdictions where BPO stakeholders work congruently to develop a sound environment for third party providers, they are able to attract at least some investment. In the case of Haiti though, this not been the case. Despite ongoing attempts over the past several years to develop a robust BPO space, the latest public security disruptions may be the final nail in Haiti’s outsourcing coffin. This is especially discouraging, considering the strong prospective agent pool found in that country. But in today’s commercial atmosphere, outsourcers and their clients appreciate stability more than ever. If Haiti cannot provide this type of environment, it will lose any chance of developing its own BPO industry.
Recent images coming out of Haiti are disturbing. Riots that were apparently initiated due to a hike in fuel prices have once again thrown it into turmoil. Unfortunately, these events are all too frequent in the Caribbean country, which has been making a strong effort to develop its BPO market for some time.
On the face of it, Haiti has significant potential for front-office outsourcers. Strong language skills are evident to anyone visiting Haiti: French, Creole, English and Spanish are spoken well and in decent volumes. This positions it uniquely for servicing both the US and Canada. Moreover, the country’s proximity to North America, as well as its growing number of direct air links boosts its accessibility for US and Canadian BPO executives. The rebuilding of Haiti’s infrastructure following the devastating 2010 earthquake has led to improved transportation and telecommunication capabilities, while its investment promotions agency, CFI Haiti, has been very active. The question then remains. Why has Haiti been unable to grow its outsourcing presence like so many of its Caribbean counterparts?
That no major BPO to date has taken the plunge in Haiti is due to a number of factors. Despite being one of the oldest democracies in the hemisphere, it has been plagued with civil unrest for the past three decades, usually because of political events or election results. In February of 2016 Haiti actually went without a president for one week, a prelude to the political tumult that followed. An electoral commission subsequently reviewed thousands of ballots, then called for a complete redo of the election. An interim president governed for another year until the current president, Jovenel Moïse, took office. Now, barely a year later, Haiti is suffering through riots. Outsourcers and their clients are dissuaded from investment in a jurisdiction that is not seen as relatively safe, and the recent streak of uncertainty bodes ill for BPO in Haiti. And even when riots are not breaking out, Haiti’s reputation for corruption does it no favors among prospective investors that are seeking transparency from public officials. In fact, the latest Transparency International Corruptions Perception Index places Haiti at 157 out of 180 countries surveyed. These factors do not instill confidence.
Realistically, it will be difficult for Haiti to recover from its most recent public security skirmishes. That the country has been enthusiastically promoting itself as the next big thing in the nearshore for so long, but with no deployments of scale to date is already an albatross. This is especially the case in a sector where few providers want to be first-movers and prefer for competitors to prove a location’s value before investing in their own deployments. These latest events are certain to reinforce negative stereotypes of the country, much in the same way that the perception of Nicaragua’s outsourcing sector has been hit by rioting and unrest in recent months. Without political stability or a major BPO deployment announcement in Haiti, it is likely that this country’s potential for outsourcing will go unrealized for the foreseeable future.