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Africa becomes outsourcing sector destination of choice

Simnikiwe Mzekandaba
By Simnikiwe Mzekandaba, IT in government editor
Johannesburg, 06 Sept 2021

The salary ranges of African contact centre agents are anything between $546 (about R7 800) and $175 (about R2 500) per month.

Meanwhile, a contact centre manager can earn up to $2 200 (roughly R32 000), to a minimum of $406 (about R5 800) per month.

These findings emerged in a new report that plots the growth of global business services (GBS), also known as business process outsourcing (BPO), on the African continent.

The “2021 Africa Global Business Services (GBS) Benchmarking and Market Report” was conducted by Knowledge Executive between February and July.

It is based on profiling surveys of 504 GBS/BPO service providers, delivery centres, analysts and stakeholders across 19 African nations regarded as having mature and emerging GBS and BPO sectors.

Africa’s large youth population and its “competitive” salary and labour costs are among the drivers behind its rise as an industry powerhouse.

The continent has an abundance of educated youth within its labour pool, with many equipped with multilingual proficiency in Arabic, English, French, Portuguese, and some German, Chinese and Italian expertise in some instances, states the report.

This workforce also has high levels of empathy and emotional intelligence. There are also low attrition rates, and strong investor support and incentives.

Speaking during a webinar announcing the report’s findings, Mark Angus,CEO and managing editor of Knowledge Executive, a Pan-African research and media firm, said the African global business services sector is poised for exponential growth over the next three years.

Angus noted that a large population of African youth are entering the labour market. “Youth employees are more suited for GBS operations, as they have the energy, the tenacity to handle the high-paced environment of GBS and BPO operations, especially call centres.”

The salary ranges of African contact centre agents are highly competitive compared to those in the European Union, US and the UK, and range between $175 and $546 per month in terms of salary and labour costs, he stated.

A country-specific focus of the contact centre agents’ salaries shows Tunisia has the highest salary, with $546, followed by Kenya with $534 (R7 614), and $514 (around R7 300) in Morocco. Ethiopia has the lowest at $175.

South Africa is number four on the list, with an average monthly salary of $465 (about R6 600). At the mid-point are Egypt, Rwanda and Zimbabwe, ranging from $402 to $360 per month.

SA leads as the country with the highest contact centre manager monthly salary of $2 200 (roughly R32 000), followed by Tunisia with $1 702 (R24 269), Kenya $1 616 (R23 043), and Namibia $1 444 (R20 590).

The report also highlights BPO and IT outsourcing as being at the forefront of Africa’s rapid growth rates, bolstered by improved economic governance, relative political stability, as well as focused efforts from African policymakers to support the sector.

Based on market projections, the report shows Africa’s total GBS offshoring market will reach $9.6 billion by 2023, from $7.8 billion in 2021.

Collectively, the domestic and international GBS markets across the continent generate about $15.1 billion in revenue, which is expected to rise to $19.8 billion in 2023.

According to the report, SA and Egypt are the two leading maturing markets.

While many industries have shed jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic, the global business services/BPO sector managed to create job opportunities during this challenging period, and has been identified as key for future employment prospects.

Within the South African context, the BPO sector has witnessed heightened growth. It is also touted as one of the green shoots that will steer the country’s economic reconstruction and recovery.

The sector is targeting 100 000 new jobs by 2023 and 500 000 by 2030. SA also claimed top spot as the most favoured offshore location for call centres worldwide, based on the 2021 Front Office BPO Omnibus Survey.

In terms of the estimations of the GBS/BPO workforce sizes in each of the key locations, Angus highlighted that SA and Egypt are neck-and-neck, with 261 082 and 240 000 employees, respectively.

He noted that SA’s GBS/BPO industry consists much more of domestic outsourcing workers at over 200 000, and around 43 000 are international servicing workers.

Meanwhile, Egypt is the other way round, with over 198 000 international servicing workers, and just over 42 000 domestic outsourcing workers, he added.

SA is said to be the continent's largest GBS player by market share (domestic and international), valued at an estimated $4.7 billion.

“The country has a sizeable English-speaking workforce, with competencies across most outsourcing services, including digitally-enabled contact centre and customer experience lifecycle management services.

“Surveyed enterprise executives rated the country best for contact centre voice, back-office processing and customer administration service delivery,” states the report.

Egypt has the second-largest domestic and international GBS market share on the continent, valued at $4 billion (excluding IT services).

“The country offers a highly-skilled, multilingual, diverse talent pool, with competitive labour costs and the second-largest youth population in Africa (36.3 million citizens aged between 18-35 years). The native Arabic language also opens Egypt to the Arabic market of 300 million consumers.”

Turning to Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation, it boasts a well-established ICT sector – the largest on the continent.

“This feature serves as an excellent foundation for developing the country's GBS industry, which is already valued at an estimated $286.8 million and employing approximately 16 540 workers,” notes the report.

“Coupled with a focus on sector-specific skills and education, the country stands poised to take advantage of the largest population of English speakers in Africa and the highest number of youths aged between 18-35 years in Africa (53 million).”

The report points out that smaller nations are also capitalising on this increasing international demand.

Rwanda is an emerging GBS market, with a large population of English- and French-speakers able to service English and Francophone countries. “It offers reliable and advanced communications infrastructure with 95% LTE network coverage.”

Southern African nation Botswana is another emerging GBS location, with the country said to boast macro-economic stability, attractive investment incentives and a growing pool of educated, English-speaking workers.

Senegal has become a popular French alternative market for BPO services. Ghana has a scalable pool of English-speaking and computer-literate talent and a growing youth population. Zimbabwe has bold GBS development plans based on its highly-educated talent pool for niche services.