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Industry master plan will fire up SA’s BPO sector

Staff Writer
By Staff Writer, ITWeb
Johannesburg, 22 Nov 2021
Minister Ebrahim Patel at the signing of the global business services master plan.
Minister Ebrahim Patel at the signing of the global business services master plan.

Trade, industry and competition minister Ebrahim Patel has signed a global business services (GBS) master plan, to bolster the industry that’s been tipped as a catalyst for the country’s employment prospects.

The GBS sector, also known as the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry, istargeting 500 000 new jobs by 2030, based on industry estimates.

The GBS master plan, signed at the Global Business Services CEO Forum in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, last week, has been brought together by government, industry, social partners and labour to set a common vision and action agenda for developing and growing the sector.

The plan provides a framework and overview of the contributions to be made by all relevant parties and the support required to realise the employment opportunity, according to the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC).

“The GBS sector presents a historic opportunity for South Africa to address its unemployment and growth challenges,” it states. “The DTIC, in recognising the important role of this sector in SA, provides investment promotion support, policy support and extends grants to investors that create GBS employment in SA.

“This is through an incentive that considers the number of jobs created and the complexity of the employment opportunities provided.”

While most sectors shed jobs amid the global pandemic, South Africa’s GBS/BPO sector was among those that managed to create job opportunities during this challenging period. International companies like Amazon, Webhelp and TransUnion have made key investments in the sector over the past year.

South Africa has also claimed top spot as the most favoured offshore location for call centres worldwide, based on the 2021 Front Office BPO Omnibus Survey.

For government, the GBS/BPO market presents a historic opportunity for the country to address its unemployment and growth challenges.

Patel has been vocal about the DTIC’s support of the sector, saying it is a large and growing employer. The department also has partnerships with non-profit industry association Business Process Enabling South Africa,and youth employment accelerator Harambee.

In an interview with broadcaster Newzroom Afrika, Patel explained: “What we are doing with this master plan, we are sketching out four jobs targets that we will set over the next eight- to nine-year period. Each of them is accompanied by a set of commitments, which are commitments by government and by the operators in the global business services, as well as partners.

“The kind of things that we’ll be doing is to deepen the skills levels of South Africans. This is a service industry that takes a problem or query by a consumer, applying knowledge, linguistic and problem-solving skills and resolving that problem on behalf of a global client.”

According to Patel, the master plan, together with a full implementation module, will be launched publicly early next year. “The work thus far has been to identify the opportunities the sector can bring for South Africa, and we’ve seen already over the last number of years a significant growth in jobs.

“Next year, when we identify that detailed implementation plan – month-by-month, year-by-year what we are seeking to do – we’ll tie that to specific jobs targets.”

Speaking to SA’s advantages in relation to counterparts such as India and the Philippines, the minister noted the country’s geographic location as one of the advantages.

“We have a very diverse range of skills in South Africa, ranging from digital skills to simple problem-solving skills − our offering is quite diverse.

“Also, South Africa is very often a stable environment. Even during the most difficult moment of our lockdowns, key call centres were able to stay open and provide services to public hospitals, government and other emergency services across the world.”