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George pursues BPO sector

Western Cape minister for finance, economic development and tourism, Alan Winde, says contact centres are excellent job creators.

Western Cape municipality George is developing into a competitive contact centre destination in a bid to target the local and international business process outsourcing market (BPO).

The Western Cape government has been striving to attract international investment into the Western Cape BPO sector and market the region as an investment destination of choice. The sector now employs about 33 500 people and is worth an estimated R7.9 billion to the regional economy.

The BPO industry has been identified as a key growth sector in the 2012 George Economic Development Strategy, and is receiving support from local and provincial government.

Western Cape minister of finance, economic development and tourism, Alan Winde, has given his backing to the region, together with his provincial team and industry body Business Process enabling SA Western Cape.

“Contact centres are excellent job creators and play a vital role in our employment strategy aimed at creating sustainable jobs across the province,” says Winde. He has said the target was to grow the sector by R250 million in the last financial year. “We far exceeded our expectations and grew new investment to R1 billion.”

In September last year, trade and industry minister Rob Davies said the department had approved grants worth R157.8 million for the sector. These would cover 10 projects over a three-year period and were expected to create more than 11 000 jobs.

The Department of Trade and Industry launched an incentive scheme last January, which aimed to trim operating costs by up to 20%. Government's incentives mean investors will be paid R112 000 for each full-time job created and maintained.

Incubating IT

Carli Bunding-Venter, manager for economic development in the George Municipality, says as part of a broader economic programme, it is rolling out an IT incubator programme.

“The IT incubator is important to the growth of George and its surrounding areas and is set to play a critical role in attracting more ICT-related industries to the region. This, in turn, will create a supportive environment for BPO operators and will ensure that all technical needs can be met locally,” says Imel Rautenbach, president of the George Business Chamber.

“It is further envisaged that the incubator will foster a spirit of innovation in the region, which, in turn, will allow the more adventurous BPO operators to create new services and product offerings out of George,” adds Rautenbach.

“Although not many people are aware, George has a number of contact centre operations, with the biggest, Oakhurst Insurance (part of the Badger Group) employing about 500 people,” says Bunding-Venter.

“In terms of our plan to grow the industry, our focus is on building the local market by servicing South African companies. The medium- to long-term focus, however, will move to foreign investment as we look to better package our value proposition to compete with other BPO destinations around the world,” notes Bunding-Venter.

“Our short-term goal is to create another 500 jobs in the next 18 months; once we have achieved that we can then reassess our goals and look at larger rollouts.

“We are not interested in quick wins; we are looking for companies that are willing to make long-term investments in the area that will create sustainable jobs for the region for many years to come.”

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