BPO sector fuels investments, job opportunities in Cape Town

Simnikiwe Mzekandaba
By Simnikiwe Mzekandaba, IT in government editor
Johannesburg, 03 May 2021

Cape Town's business process outsourcing (BPO) sector has, over the last three years, attracted R3.4 billion worth of investments, fuelling economic growth and employment in the city.

This is according to the city’s mayoral committee member for economic opportunities and asset management, alderman James Vos, during a visit to the Webhelp call centre based in the central city.

Vos stated the investments have resulted in 17 037 job opportunities during the same period.

This comes as president Cyril Ramaphosa has tipped SA’s BPO sector as one of the green shoots that will steer the country’s economic reconstruction and recovery in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Furthermore, the country claimed top spot as the most favoured offshore location for call centres worldwide, based on the 2021 Front Office BPO Omnibus Survey.

In the City of Cape Town, the sector has been identified as a high-growth sector due to the number of job opportunities and investment potential it creates.

Recognising its growth potential, the city supported its BPO sector by allocating R28.5 million towards skills development and training between July 2018 and March 2021, Vos has stated.

He explains: “When I was given oversight over the city’s Enterprise and Investment Department in 2018, one of my main goals was to see the City of Cape Town make meaningful strides in the fight against unemployment and to stoke economic growth. We could achieve this by targeting high-growth sectors such as BPO and working with our strategic business partners in those industries.

“The result is a phenomenal R3.4 billion in investments pumped into the economy in the past three years alone. The sector employs more than 60 000 people in the city, with over 17 037 of them gaining employment in the last three years.”

One strategic business partner the City of Cape Town is working with to boost its BPO sector is CapeBPO, according to Vos, noting that through the partnership, they have trained and placed thousands of people.

“Because of this, Cape Town has made its mark as a leading hub on the continent for call centres speaking to both domestic and international markets. The numbers are proof that we are achieving our goal.”

He also noted the sector drove in over R1.2 billion in investments in the midst of the global pandemic.

“This goes to show that Cape Town, despite these trying times, is still seen as one of the preferred destinations for contact centres to base their operations. As a high-performance African business hub, we are working on all fronts with investors, high-growth sectors and small to medium enterprises to create the right conditions for investment and development.”

Cape Town’s mayoral committee member for economic opportunities and asset management, alderman James Vos, interacts with personnel in a contact centre.
Cape Town’s mayoral committee member for economic opportunities and asset management, alderman James Vos, interacts with personnel in a contact centre.

Clayton Williams, CapeBPO CEO, points to the significant gains in the BPO sector, amid the pandemic, as the result of working closely with the City of Cape Town.

“We have seen significant growth in our sector in the Western Cape and this would not have been possible without the support of, and collaboration between, our public sector partners (local, provincial and national) and our private sector constituents.

‘The City of Cape Town has supported not just CapeBPO as an organisation, but the broader BPO industry through both direct funding and holistic sector support. The supply pipeline to provide the necessary talent and skills to service demand is a key focus area, and we are most fortunate that we have fostered genuine and functional private public sector partnerships.”

Webhelp chief commercial officer Brandon Aitken adds: “Despite the pandemic, we have brought eight new clients to South Africa since the start of 2020 and in doing so created 2 050 South African jobs, with 1 400 of these roles coming to Cape Town.

“International clients from the retail sector in the United Kingdom, Europe and North America, as well as the travel sector, have driven this exceptional growth. Looking ahead, 2021 promises to be another year of new and exciting employment opportunities for young South Africans.”

With the recently launched Cape Skills and Employment Accelerator Project, the city says it is looking to fuel further growth. The project will direct R55 million in funds towards training, paying stipends and doing job placements in the BPO and the clothing and textile sectors.

“The city designed this programme to provide skills pipelines for these high-growth sectors and to supply trained and work-ready employees. In the call centre (BPO) sector, this project will train operators who will be able to work for one of many multinational companies based in the city,” says Vos.