Industry Commentary

Senegal Emerges as a Strong French-language Offshore Alternative

By February 6, 2019July 25th, 2023No Comments

A fundamental challenge for outsourcers is how to source new delivery points that can drive seamless customer interactions. And while the bulk of this discussion focuses around the English-language market, supporting French-speaking consumers is also a major component.  In the case of the latter, both traditional offshore and onshore delivery points are mature, and new alternatives are emerging.  It is in this sense that Senegal is coming to the forefront of French-language service delivery, with what appears to be the right balance of accessibility, commercial sophistication and value.

The offshoring of services in French has evolved steadily over the past two decades.  For a time, the North African countries of Morocco and Tunisia were the principal target delivery points for French-language delivery; agents from these countries have served consumers in France, other parts of Europe, and Canada well.  However, with enterprises seeking to diversify their risk profile, new alternatives for French-speaking end-users have been a focal point for site selection specialists. Egypt has proven itself as a multilingual hub, one in which French can be serviced alongside other languages. First steps have also been made in Madagascar of late. Yet, despite the best of intentions, Haiti has yet to establish its credibility as a French language location of choice, largely because of country’s ongoing stability issues.

So, it’s back to Africa. Enter Senegal.

Upon visiting this French-speaking West African country, outsourcing executives are immediately struck by its ease of access. From the US East Coast, it is roughly a direct flight lasting 7 hours; just 5 from Europe. Passengers land at a newly constructed international airport in Dakar.  The capital city’s infrastructure is under renewal, and the positive results are already being felt in many parts of its commercial arteries.  Scalability is also a noted advantage to be found in Senegal – while the country is estimated to be nearly 16 million people, roughly 3 million reside in the metropolitan area of the capital, Dakar.  Given the infancy of the contact center market in Senegal, this means optimal hiring opportunities for outsourcers.

Given the stability concerns at the forefront of enterprise offshore locations these days, Senegal appears well situated. The country’s economic growth should be steady for the next three years, according to the IMF. And that bugbear of emerging markets, political instability, is not a major part of Senegal’s history. It is one of the few countries in the region that has not suffered a coup d’état. In fact, Senegal has a regular election cycle, with the latest round of Presidential voting to be held later this year.  From a commercial sophistication perspective, many of the same stores, hotels and restaurants found in Europe or North American are readily available in Senegal, helping to drive a strong level of alignment between agents and consumers.

Senegal’s BPO validation comes in the form of ongoing investment.  It has proven itself to be a valuable source of French-language delivery by way of deployments from some of the leading global outsourcers eager to support Francophone consumers in Europe and Canada. Already these include ibex, Intelcia and Sitel. Each of these firms chose Senegal as part of a French-language strategy that includes more traditional delivery points.

This does not mean that Senegal is free of all risk; any new offshore delivery location carries with it some degree of uncertainty.  An example relates to controversies over the elections later this year.  But core elements of delivery success in French are present. Senegal’s level of commercial sophistication, talent availability and stability are providing operators with significant value, as those already on the ground in Senegal can attest.