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Nasrec next on Gauteng’s radar for BPO hub

Simnikiwe Mzekandaba
By Simnikiwe Mzekandaba, IT in government editor
Johannesburg, 07 Oct 2022
Gauteng MEC of economic development Parks Tau.
Gauteng MEC of economic development Parks Tau.

The Gauteng Provincial Government is looking at Nasrec as the “next immediate” location to set up a business process outsourcing (BPO) or contact centre hub, says Gauteng MEC of economic development Parks Tau.

This comes amid concerted efforts from BPO specialist companies to provide contact centre solutions from townships.

SA’s BPO sector, also known as global business services (GBS), made significant employment gains over the course of the pandemic, leading to it becoming a priority sector for job creation prospects, especially for local youth.

It’s further projected to reach $3.6 billion by 2027, growing at 13.2% during this period.

Speaking on the sidelines at this week’s launch of the Soweto contact centre established by Merchants, Tau told ITWeb: “The immediate next target is Nasrec, because it gives us a much bigger facility and opportunity. It’s in close proximity to the townships, so we’re looking at it as part of Soweto in many ways.

“We’ve agreed with the Tshwane government – the municipality in Tshwane – that they would hand over the incomplete call centre in Hamanskraal, so that we can recapitalise that. The premier has committed to ensuring we get the resources to do that and we’ve started working on that.

“We’re looking at this comprehensively in the townships in the province of Gauteng.”

Tau indicated partners have been identified for this next opportunity, but said any announcements on these would be “premature”.

This week, Merchants officially launched a contact centre in Jabulani, Soweto, in partnership with Amandla Social Enterprises, the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) and the Gauteng Department of Economic Development, marking a first for the BPO firm.

Merchants joined the likes of outsourcing specialist Sigma, which last year launchedits first contact centre in the Cape Flats area in Cape Town’s Mitchells Plain, to serve domestic clients.

Commenting on the significance of the Merchants contact centre for the township economy, Tau stated: “The Gauteng Provincial Government has adopted a global business services strategy and part of that strategy is to ensure we locate these BPO hubs and other global business services initiatives in the townships, and therefore closer to where people are.

“The significance is that we’ve worked with partners across the board, ranging from Merchants – who run the call centre – to BPESA, DBSA and other partners that have come to the party to say: how do we ensure this kick-starts a process where we can locate these opportunities in the townships but also create opportunities for entrepreneurs in the townships, to run their own call centres.

“These partnerships are a social impact in practice; it is acting on the social impact the president has committed to – saying we need to work across sectors to ensure the country can confront the challenges it faces and build a better country. The focus now is on jobs and the economy – it’s on overcoming the impact of COVID-19 and the recession in the country and create new entrepreneurs.”

Race to be number one

While the cities of Cape Town and Johannesburg are considered prime destinations for BPO services, it is the former that has reportedmaking strides in this sector.

In addition, Cape Town’s provincial government has earmarked the BPO sector as a priority industry to boost the local economy and extend job opportunities to more Capetonians.

Rising in the ranks is Durban, with more business process companies paying it attention and setting upbusiness in the KwaZulu-Natal city.

On Gauteng’s position, Tau told ITWeb the province is positioning itself from the point of a broader global business services offering.

“As the economic hub of the country, we are able to attract business process outsourcing in its broader sense; it’s about global business services, data centres, specialised services provided to industry, etc.

“Provinces will compete for opportunities and investments but there is also cooperation that happens in the process, and we’re working with industry body BPESA and other industry role-players to ensure we’re able to participate in this sector, as well as position ourselves in what we say is to provide a unique offering,” he concludes.