Outsourcing business in Kenya is the next ‘big thing’ in the ICT circles if only the country ups its marketing and prepares a formidable trained personnel.
But seriously speaking, Kenya may miss the Business Processing and Outsourcing (BPO) ‘bus’ unless it puts its act together.Over 50 countrues
Over 50 countries, including Kenya, across the world have identified BPO as a key pillar for economic growth meaning all these countries are striving hard to market their countries as preferred outsourcing destinations.
Kenya would therefore lose an opportunity to capture attention of the global market despite of its many technological advancements including, undersea optic cables.
Kenya’s BPO sector has been performing dismally with many BPOs opening and closing due to poor business strategy coupled with high running costs.
But all is not lost as can be learned from the experience of Kencall EPZ limited, the most successful Kenyan BPO so far.
Kencall grows bigger
Kencall EPZ limited is Kenya’s oldest BPO and the best in Sub-Saharan Africa and has been globally feted as the most successful non-European BPO.
In an Interview with T ech.Insight, Kencall EPZ limited CEO, Nick Nesbitt argues that there should be no more excuses and the sector has all opportunities to grow as envisioned in vision 2030.
“With the arrival of the undersea optic cables, we are now well equipped with right costs and right technology. Bandwidth costs are no more a hindrance in doing business…more than 50 countries have BPO in their growth strategy, Kenya would miss the boat,” said Nesbitt.
He said the recent upheavals in the sector that saw upcoming BPOs close shop are normal business teething problems, which should not scare away potential investors.
He confirmed bandwidth costs have dropped by over 90 per cent for big companies and Internet Service Providers although the same drop in price has not been passed on to individual end users.
Low bandwidth costs
“Over a year ago before undersea cable went live, we were buying bandwidth at $6000 per meg per month but currently we buying the same quantity at $600 per month,” explained Nesbitt.
“It is time we get down to hardcore business. Let us stop whining and stop begging for handouts,” he said in regards to recent complaints from many BPOs miss out on World Bank bandwidth subsidy.
Nesbitt said Kencall started with 20 seats five years ago but now the company is running over 200 seats with capcity to expand and accommodate huge international at ease.
“We are no longer limited by capacity and prospects are looking very positive. We now have enough financial backing and the biggest challenge now is marketing our potential,” said Nesbitt.
The company currently has over 500 employees up from 25 employees when it stared five years ago.
In October last year, the company scooped an award as runners up top non-European Call centre and leading one in Sub-Saharan Africa.
“From my experience, most Kenya companies do not understand the power of outsourcing their non-core business…with time I am sure domestic outsourcing will greatly contribute to growth of the local Outsourcing industry,” argued Nesbitt.
He said his company currently handles local and International clients, though he did not reveal details citing client confidentiality.
In her vision 2030, the Kenyan government has identified ICT as a key economic pillar with Business Processing and Outsourcing taken as key flagship project.
Already the Government has purchased a sh1billion worth 5000 acres (Malili Ranch) of land where it intends to put up and ICT park to house BPOs and other ICT businesses.
However poor farmers who sold the land through their company, Malili Ranch, claimed foul play saying company directors failed to pay them all their dues.
According to Ministry of Information Permanent Secretary, Bitange Ndemo, however, the project is on course and by mid April the government shall be presenting to the public feasibility studies before engaging a master builder to begin construction of the multi billion ICT park.
“What we badly need is intensive marketing to make the world know Kenya is a preferred outsourcing destination. We also need capacity building in readiness for major international assignments we are likely to get as Kenya becomes more visible globally,” said Nesbitt.
In a recent Interview with Tech.Insight, Kenya ICT Board CEO, Paul Kukubo revealed of plans to sponsor trips for BPO and other ICT investors to attend international BPO fairs and exhibitions to boost their visibility and market Kenya’s potential.
Kukubo called for tax rebates where BPO operators are reimbursed for the workforce they train and the international jobs they bring into the country.
“With the new fibre optic cables, there’s a sense that Kenya has never before been better positioned to take off as a major outsourcing hub for East Africa, if not for the entire continent,” argued Kukubo.
Cost of training
Echoing Kukubo’s sentiments “We spend between sh20,000 to sh 30,000 training each new recruit, who take up to three months before becoming economically useful. It would be prudent if the Goverrnment reimburses us for upscaling staff,” said Nesbitt,
According to Kukubo, already the Government in conjunction with the private sector has embarked on capacity building and aggressive campaign to market the country as a preferred outsourcing destination.
To tackle the capacity problem, the Kenya ICT Board is spearheading establishment of an Information Technology-Business Process Outsourcing (IT-BPO) centre of excellence (COE) to generate internationally accredited personnel to attract global jobs.
The centre of excellence, through the support of Information and Communication Ministry, World Bank and other partners will impart training to Kenyan trainers in order to prepare them for training a large number of students for employment in the IT-BPO sector.
“The vision for the Center is that it will eventually become a regional training hub for the IT-BPO sector catering to training needs in the Africa region,” reveals Kenya ICT Board CEO, Paul Kukubo.
Kenya’s highly educated, largely English-speaking population is also a plus for Kenya thus there is nothing that should stop her from replicating or even surpassing successes experienced in Philippines, India and Egypt.