South Africa overtakes the Philippines and was only just beaten by India which has a mature BPO sector. According to industry standards, South Africa’s growth over the past four years is at twice the global growth rate and increasing three times faster than past industry leaders, India and the Philippines.
South Africa’s Global Business Services (GBS) sector drew $250 million (R4 billion) worth of investments during the past financial year and has continued to thrive during the Covid-19 lockdown. The sector is primed to employ 500 000 people in the next 10 years according to Business Process Enabling South Africa (BPESA) and is a significant contributor to GDP.
“It’s good news for South Africa, and it’s very good news for youth employment, an area where some 50% of young South Africans are unemployed. South Africa’s GBS sector provides a crucial lifeline for thousands of people, notably previously disadvantaged and disabled young South Africans – who find meaningful and stable employment in South Africa’s burgeoning GBS sector, and an opportunity for career progression and personal development,” explains Daniel Shapiro, a director and founder of Alefbet Holdings which owns numerous collections and customer service BPO providers including iContact and Shapiro Shaik Defries and Associates (SSDA).
iContact is a BPO specialising in inbound and outbound sales and support services, customer retention and loyalty management, lead generation and back-office fulfilment. SSDA is a leading specialist collections business with over $500million under management. Alefbet Holdings has head offices in Johannesburg and recently Cape Town which is currently the fastest growing BPO region in the country and employs some 1500 full time employees across both regions.
“South Africa is an increasingly attractive destination for global businesses to offshore their business processes. Global giants like Amazon have already recognised this potential and recently set up customer service operations here. As a country we have thousands of educated young South Africans in need of gainful employment; our IT and telephony structures are world-class; we have a stable political environment and one of the best constitutions in the world; our English accent and linguistic capabilities are amenable across many geographies including the US, UK and Australia; and our exchange rate makes it a particularly cost-effective exercise. If you consider that the US minimum wage is US$15/hour, we are able to provide our services in South Africa, fully loaded and including management time at US$10-11/hour - making SA a very attractive option for outsourcing at a time when businesses across the globe are under enormous cost pressures due to the Covid-19 pandemic. SA is currently the third largest offshore location for UK and Australian organisations who enjoy up to 60% cost savings compared to onshore service delivery, along with a comparable if not better quality of service, cultural affinity and great work ethic of our people,” adds Daniel.
While South Africa’s GBS sector has enormous employment and investment potential, it is also a significant role player from an ‘impact sourcing’ perspective. Many global organisations find themselves in a position to make a profound difference within disadvantaged communities through what is known as ‘impact sourcing’. Also known as socially responsible outsourcing, it refers to an arm of Global Business Services that employs socio-economically disadvantaged individuals as principal workers in business process outsourcing centres.
“Alefbet’s Impact Sourcing Institute of South Africa is at the forefront of helping businesses unlock and develop a new pool of talent, uplifting the quality of life for disadvantaged communities and creating a powerful future workforce. Our model bridges the gap by sourcing people who struggle to access the labour market – either because they are outside traditional recruitment pipelines due to their lack of access to networks, or because transport costs from townships to jobs are high, or because they face physical disabilities which prevent their integration into the mainstream workforce. South Africa faces a burden of massive structural, youth unemployment. We believe that with the right leadership, investment and training, this large untapped pool of South African talent has the potential to be groomed into successful call centre agents serving both international and local customers, delivering great results for the Global Business Services sector, and uplifting communities, families and livelihoods in the process,” explains Daniel.
The Impact Sourcing Institute of South Africa focuses on upskilling and creating opportunities for society’s most vulnerable individuals, with an offering that includes the recruitment, hosting, training and eventually full-time employment for these individuals within the Alefbet ecosystem and extended client network.
“We work with learners to provide them with the required equipment to learn and work safely from home, along with support from work-and-learning-teams who engage with them daily. Over the course of 12 months, learners gain valuable work experience and a qualification upon course completion. Additionally, learners are upskilled with the life and soft skills required to succeed in a corporate environment. At the end of the learnership, they are offered full-time employment with the option to maintain their work-from-home structure. A key benefit of working with the likes of the Impact Sourcing Institute is that our clients get to support a programme whose outputs align with the UN’s sustainable development goals while at the same time, developing a skilled workforce for long-term employment within the BPO sector,” adds Daniel.
South Africa’s BPO sector has a key role to play in South Africa’s economic recovery by providing cost-effective, consistent and high-quality 24/7 BPO functionality to multinational organisations and those that have been forced to relocate services due to the global pandemic. Expanding undersea and fibre cable networks, increased Government support, growing broadband bandwidth capacity, advanced business intelligence tools, data analytics capabilities and a large, educated skills pool with strong English language proficiency are culminating to super-charge South Africa’s GBS sector – bringing together the best of economics, quality and socially responsible supply chains.