Industry Commentary

It’s time for South Africa’s BPO sector to realize its national potential

By October 11, 2016August 31st, 2021No Comments

In just a few days, a great deal of the South African BPO ecosystem will meet for what has become an annual summit of sorts in Cape Town, hosted by BPESA.  At this event, it is certain that domestic and offshore observers will (as always) be rightly impressed with the ongoing development of South Africa’s contact center outsourcing space.  But, what is also a certainty is that more regions within the country are stepping up to the plate, in terms of ramping up their offshore contact center service capabilities.  Indeed, the world may be finally witnessing the fulfillment of South Africa as a truly national delivery market.

There is no doubt that South Africa has been a strong magnet for offshore contact center services.  In fact, over the past five years, what was once a small number of voice and non-voice deployments servicing customers overseas has grown significantly.  Traditionally, these deployments have been centered around the Western Cape; however, that success appears set to be replicated in other parts of the country.

For example, there has been a great deal of activity in the burgeoning eastern province of KwaZulu Natal, in which aggressive, hungry entrepreneurs are positioning their operations as the logical alternative for clients looking to diversify their South African risk footprint beyond the shores of the Western Cape.  In addition, there has been more discussion of the country’s economic engine of Gauteng as a logical location for offshore contact centers than in recent times.  And why wouldn’t there be?  With one of the largest metropolitan populations in all of Africa and the status of the country’s global gateway to the world, the fluidity of the educated labor market is significant and a real opportunity for contact centers to recruit skilled agents.   This has been realized and supported by local government officials and commercial stakeholders, who see this sector as crucial to job creation.

But the question remains, what does South Africa’s contact center sector need in order to achieve truly national proportions?  For one, the will among stakeholders found in the Western Cape needs to be replicated in other regions; with political changes on the horizon in a number of South African provinces and cities, new lawmakers may very well find themselves willing to bring in the commercially-progressive measures needed to help develop robust contact center environments.  This process can also be helped along with the assistance of outside stakeholders, such as the Rockefeller Foundation and Harambee, organizations that are intent on developing the impact sourcing model,  which potentially lends itself to regions around the country.

In a best case scenario, as CRM / BPO professionals re-assemble in South Africa in just over a year from now, it should be done on the basis of continuing to advance a national value proposition for the sector.  This is not out of reach – after all, one need only look at the steady location diversification beyond Manila within the Philippines, as well as the rapid expansion of the offshore contact center industry into different regions of Colombia in recent years.  Positive moves including the establishment of regional BPESA bodies in KwaZulu Natal and Johannesburg are certainly steps in the right direction.  However, for South Africa to realize its long-term potential in the contact center outsourcing sector, there is no time lose.