Is Africa the New India?

Africa will be the top-growing area for call center agents through 2010 according to new research from Datamonitor. Most of that growth will support European markets, but there may be some countries, such as South Africa and Egypt, that will also serve the United States, according to Ri Pierce-Grove, Datamonitor associate analyst for technology. West European outsourced agent positions are expected to increase from 150,000 in 2005 to 206,000 by 2010. The principal reason will be pressure to move to low-cost locations. South Africa has a well-developed call center infrastructure, an English-speaking population, and close cultural ties with the United Kingdom, but it is among the costliest areas for firms to place call centers, trailing only Canada. Egypt, on the other hand, has much lower agent labor costs--only slightly above India and the Philippines--combined with a mix of savvy and linguistically talented agents and a growing list of blue-chip investors who have housed customer care in that country. Pierce-Grove expects Egypt to serve a mix of European, and, to a lesser extent, U.S. needs for offshore agent positions. Datamonitor adds that Morocco and Tunisia are ideal locations for servicing French speaking nations, whose offshore outsourcing options are very limited due to lack of areas specializing in the language. While France is expected to outsource as many as half of its agent positions, that growth could be limited by incentives the government is offering to keep those jobs in the country. Several other nations are starting to compete for outsourced agent positions, according to Datamonitor. Botswana has adopted an aggressive global promotional strategy with good incentives for foreign companies bringing operations there. Botswana also offers a stable investment climate and an educated workforce with English fluency. However, there are concerns over high telecommunications charges and scalability. Senegal has a number of French offshore facilities already, a stable investment environment, and a governmental emphasis on technology and telecommunications development. Kenya has recently launched customer care initiatives and has a large potential workforce with solid English language capabilities. However, corruption is a concern. Ghana is also attracting the interest of some global outsourcing players, according to Datamonitor. But there's still limited global awareness about the capabilities in this country. As these emerging countries seek to grow their call center businesses, they will look first to Europe, and then may look to serve needs of U.S. firms, Pierce-Grove says. "This will take some of the pressure off of India." Related articles: Offshoring Awimowehs to Africa
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