Africa is an increasingly attractive market for BPO services

Lizelle Strydom. Picture: Supplied

Lizelle Strydom. Picture: Supplied

Published Jun 7, 2024


Lizelle Strydom

The global business process outsourcing (BPO) market is valued at more than $260 billion (R4.7 trillion) and is expected to exceed $500bn by 2030, according to Grand View Research. Africa is at the centre of this outsourcing boom, offering competitive outsourcing solutions for international companies.

Africa is just beginning its expansion into BPO, and the region has high potential to become a preferred and even dominant outsourcing destination.

One of the biggest advantages that Africa offers to international clients is its skilled yet underutilised youth population – the fastest-growing youth population globally, with more than 12 million African youth entering the job market annually.

A continent ripe with opportunity

For brands seeking a cost advantage, Africa is on a par with other offshore markets and more competitive than most near-shore locations. There is an abundance of young, trainable workers eager to start their career in BPO.

Even though the continent is extremely linguistically diverse, English is the predominant business and government language in South Africa, Kenya, Ethiopia and Ghana, among others. Rwanda has the added benefit of including French and English as business languages. This means that most individuals in the countries speak excellent English as a first or second language, with a relatively neutral accent.

The industry is supported by governments and NGOs that are investing heavily in the sector by offering financial incentives for job creation. Brands can invest in socially conscious impact sourcing practices that enable job creation and career opportunities for persistently unemployed and disadvantaged individuals. Africa also offers the opportunity to de-risk and diversify from over-concentration in the historical BPO markets.

In Kenya, the revision of labour laws is part of a government plan to prioritise the BPO sector under their economic pillar. As a result of this, they hope to create a million BPO-related jobs by 2026. Rwanda has also seen growth, thanks to government and business collaboration.

In just two years. the country has welcomed 14 BPO companies, creating 500 jobs and employing thousands of people. In South Africa, the government has recognised the opportunity for the BPO industry to help address unemployment and growth challenges, with an industry master plan in place which is targeting 500 000 new jobs by 2030. This is emblematic of a burgeoning opportunity for countries across the continent.

Unlocking the opportunities for Africa’s youth

Many African countries have a high youth unemployment rate, with far more youth looking for employment than there are opportunities, and a weak global economy compounds the factors, making it harder for our youth to find employment. Those who are not equipped with tertiary education qualifications face even bigger barriers to entry to meaningful employment.

The high rate of youth unemployment often stems from limited access to education. Many young people are forced to abandon their education due to factors such as financial constraints, lack of education infrastructure and insufficient resources.

How do we create opportunities for our youth to succeed and thrive?

The BPO industry is a sector where individuals with varied educational backgrounds and qualifications all have an opportunity to enter the workforce. Youth with minimal to no experience or tertiary training can succeed and thrive in an industry where the right attitude, good communication skills and an aptitude for working with people are valued and can lead to career success.

For many people recruited through impact hiring practices, an entry-level BPO position would probably to be their first formal job opportunity and have a massive impact on their income and their entire family’s well-being.

Recruiting individuals who have a strong desire to work could lead to higher retention rates, competitive performance and other positive social and financial outcomes for the companies that engage with the impact sourcing model. This is particularly important in the BPO industry, which traditionally has intense competition for labour.

Working in partnership to find sustainable employment opportunities

Impact sourcing isn’t just about demonstrating commitment to social good. To be successful and provide business value to the company, it also demands competitive performance. Service providers in the BPO sector must deliver high-quality services at attractive rates, and adding impact sourcing into the mix often results in an economically secure and loyal workforce who are committed to providing positive outcomes for brands.

African companies bear the responsibility of contributing positively to our youth to provide them with avenues to sustainable employment and careers. By working to establish long-term career paths, we can positively impact our youth while contributing to the growth of the digital economy across Africa.

Here, international brands have the opportunity to invest in socially conscious impact sourcing to enable job creation and provide employment opportunities for unemployed and disadvantaged individuals.

Many of our young people are resourceful and hard-working, and have excellent problem-solving skills that make them a great fit for the BPO industry. Work readiness training programmes, such as the one offered by CareerBox Africa, help bridge the gap between enthusiastic and motivated young people and the digital skills they need to take advantage of the prospects the BPO industry offers.

Ultimately, though, it comes back to talent. Africa is teeming with driven and motivated young people who are eager to grasp the transformational opportunities that the BPO industry offers them.

It is this determination to succeed, an openness to other cultures and the lessons that come from living in a diverse and multicultural society that are Africa’s superpower and makes the countries within it such attractive BPO destinations.

Lizelle Strydom is the managing director of CareerBox Africa.

The Star