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As Africa BPO business grows, a call goes out to get organized

Olusegun Abolaji Ogundeji | Aug. 1, 2014
Following the example of the burgeoning business process outsourcing industry in India, African entrepreneurs are in a stronger position than ever before to offer outsourced call center services to companies operating out of North America and Europe, according to industry insiders.

In an increasingly competitive landscape, customer tolerance for delayed responses is waning, Ayeni said.

"For governments, call centers can assist citizens faster, reducing the workload and wait times in physical offices, and so cutting the costs of administration and serving citizens better," Ayeni said. "In the case of departments such as Revenue Services, call centers can improve the collection of revenues. There is an important role for call centers in sharing accurate information too, which is crucial for departments dealing with complex issues such as health, education, licensing and registration or import and export regulations, for example."

Ayeni thinks the call for an association is a good move but cautioned on the continental roll out. "Yes. That would help with standardization and serve as an help/information hub where members can pull their knowledge together to help each other," he said. "However, Africa is pretty large and needs differ so I would propose smaller units within Africa before centralizing the continent."

Despite the perceived challenges, Bell is adamant that the call center association is feasible as more call centers are "taking off phenomenally across Africa, presenting a great deal of new business potential and the ideal opportunity for the sector to organize itself."

Bell pointed out that in Zimbabwe, for example, the call center industry has proven to be a pioneer in this field, and has an established Call Centre Association of Zimbabwe (CCAZ), which provides an annual conference, as well as performance awards and training to develop the skills necessary for a world-class call center industry.

The CCAZ has been instrumental in the creation of a similar body in Zambia, and is willing to share its best experience and thought leadership with new associations across the continent, Bell noted. The key to success of call center associations is that they have to be driven by local industry, and their work has to be supportive rather than prescriptive, Bell said

"Large enterprises, particularly financial institutions and, in some cases, public sector organisations, are fast seeing the value of call centers across the continent," Bells said.

Call centers have become established businesses in Zimbabwe and South Africa, and organizations in Zambia, Kenya, Botswana and Nigeria are rolling out call centers at a rapid rate, Bell said. "Ethiopia has recently introduced legislation stating that financial institutions in the country must have call centers, so we are seeing strong uptake there too."

 

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