Special Commentary by Sean Goforth, Nearshore Analyst at Ryan Strategic Advisory
More countries are coping with violent protests now than at any time since 2008, including the offshore CX powerhouse South Africa. In July, two provinces in South Africa convulsed amid rioting that left hundreds dead, while also disrupting operations for outsourcers during this period. This tragedy highlights the ongoing need for sound business continuity planning and site diversification. And following the disruptions in South Africa, no region stands to benefit more than the Anglo nearshore of contact center markets in the Caribbean and South / Central America, led by Jamaica.
Jamaica offers a bevy of CX management strengths, including a scalable workforce of native English speakers. Since the onset of the pandemic, Jamaica-based outsourcers have shown an ability to expand services delivery not only to US-based consumers but to those in Canada and the UK as well (all three notably demand markets for South African BPO).
On Monday, ibex announced the launch of its fifth center in Jamaica. This comes in the wake of a series of moves by the island’s largest homegrown outsourcer, itel, to keep expanding through the pandemic, most recently thanks to the acquisition of Guyana’s largest outsourcer, Emerge BPO. Today, Jamaica’s status as a top-tier location for English-language service delivery has never looked better and provides a clear, quality alternative for enterprises looking to rebalance their delivery points.
As the recent acquisition makes clear, Guyana also presents a viable option for outsourcers and their clients seeking an alternative to South Africa. The maturity of Guyana’s outsourcing sector comes amid torrid growth that has defied even COVID-19. Last year the economy grew by a record-setting 43.5%, according to the World Bank, as oil finds triggered an influx of foreign investment.
It would be foolhardy to forecast what precise opportunities may emerge as the economy morphs into a darling of emerging market BPO investors. But Guyana has two things going for it.
First, Guyana is a native English-speaking country with more than a decade’s track record of hosting contact centers. Second, the country’s largest telecom began a 5G rollout in 2020, putting it on par with South Africa and years ahead of most developing countries. This should facilitate work-from-home delivery from Guyana, while also strongly positioning the country as AI and other IT-intensive deployments increase in the future.
Belize and the Bahamas also offer niche opportunities. Since the opening of Belize’s first call center in 2005, the sector has steadily grown to more than two dozen sites This is due to the accent-neutral English of its citizens and a strong level of government support for the outsourcing industry, among other factors.
Eventually, scalability could present a problem in Belize, given that many contact centers have 500 or fewer seats. Likewise, large-scale work would be difficult to achieve in the Bahamas.
But just a stone’s throw from South Florida, the Bahamas offer unrivaled accessibility. “The Bahamas are a good alternative for housing professionals that normally would need H1B visas to work in the US,” said Loren Moss, chief analyst at Unido Digital Media, noting that the Bahamas has a BH-1B visa that can be obtained in two weeks.
“US companies can house professionals in the Bahamas and have them work there,” Moss explained, “then they can fly to the US as much as they need for meetings with their employers or clients.” Such convenience handily bests the 15-plus hours it takes for a one-way trip from the US east coast to South Africa.
Granted, these countries are among the more expensive nearshore markets for agent wages. However, the Anglo nearshore enjoys widespread favorability. Contact center decision-makers favor Jamaica for CX delivery above all other countries in the American nearshore, according to the Ryan Strategic Advisory 2021 Front-Office Omnibus Survey. Guyana is the most favored country in South America, while Belize surpassed Costa Rica as the most preferred location in Central America.
Finally, these countries are stable. In contrast to the violence that recently beset South Africa and the growth of the far-left populist EFF party there, none of the countries in the Anglo nearshore has a history of disruptive protests. And democracy has steadily taken root in each. As outsourcers readjust their delivery footprints in the wake of recent global disruption, the combination of native English and stability may spur yet more CX growth in these countries.