Long gone are the days of new outsourcing locations popping up almost overnight. In 2024, the reality is that few jurisdictions have not been prospected.  In the European nearshore, over the past two decades a tapestry of countries have presented themselves as the logical ‘next big thing’ for outsourcers and their clients. But, in this sea of choices, it is clear that North Macedonia is positioned as a location to watch.

On the face of it, the growth of North Macedonia as a place from which to deliver outsourced business services may seem exotic.  But, it is something that has been happening for quite some time, as reported on this blog back in 2016. Indeed, eight years ago interest in North Macedonia as a BPO destination of choice was being fuelled by an emphasis on language skills, aggressive promotion in Western demand markets, and favorable tax rates.

Clearly, these efforts have borne fruit over the years in the form of investment by global operators.  This is alongside a myriad of home-grown outsourcers led by Taskforce, one of the pioneering BPOs to be born in North Macedonia.

Today, several factors are encouraging more interest in BPO delivery from North Macedonia. One of these is relatively stable labor costs, which are heavily driven by the country’s lack of seasonal inflows/outflows of talent. Unlike Croatia and other parts of the region that welcome large numbers of vacationing West Europeans each summer, landlocked North Macedonia has a relatively small tourism sector.

Also, North Macedonia’s air connections with the rest of Europe are improving. At present, airports in 23 different countries offer direct flights to the capital of Skopje; many of these flights last less than two hours. The government also has a strong pro-EU, pro-NATO policy orientation that is reassuring to both outsourcers and their clients.

Furthermore, for those interested in tapping into the language and technical skills spoken in the Balkans, North Macedonia provides a more stable mulitlingual alternative to Serbia. That country has at times been consumed by crackdowns on what its government views as political dissent and harassment of Kosovo’s borders, resulting in its low level of favorability among buyers in major western demand markets.

And make no mistake about it – the interest in North Macedonia among outsourcers and their clients is real. In fact, based on the recently published 2024 Front Office CX Front Office Omnibus Survey, which sounded the view of 750 enterprise contact center buyers, respondents from Western Europe ranked North Macedonia as their 2nd most favored offshore delivery destination. This performance for North Macedonia is especially impressive as it eclipsed favorability for established European nearshore heavyweights Poland, Romania and Croatia.

Granted, this is not to say that North Macedonia does not have its challenges.  With a population of roughly two million, educated and multilingual talent increasingly comes at a premium. Probably it will only become more expensive as the country’s economy grows, a process that is being spurred by further integration into the EU.  And, while English is viewed as widely available among younger people, the runway for other European languages (notably German) is limited.

For now though, North Macedonia is the country to watch in the European nearshore BPO context.  As buyers continue to seek out outsourcing delivery alternatives, this Balkan option carries a great deal of goodwill that is driving more growth in business services.  Barring unforeseen circumstances, this will continue for the foreseeable future.  Key to sustainable growth will be the efforts of all levels of government in the country to provide both the stable cost base required to remain competitive and a focus on driving a steady pool of multilingual graduates.  Outsourcers and their clients will be expecting no less.

Image provided by Mike Norton under relevant Creative Commons licence