Kenya was a trailblazer in Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) for several years. The focus on this sector as a mass employment creation sector has dwindled in the past 10 years, whereas the opportunities are still valid.
The current government and the previous administration talked much about the sector on paper. However, there have never been deliberate efforts to tap into the opportunities presented by the sector.
Kenya has several key factors going for it that makes for a viable BPO destination. Key strengths include price competitiveness, quality infrastructure, availability of well educated workforce (though not BPO sector ready).
These factors make for a great BPO service provider destination, but a lot still needs to be done to continue being competitive.
The sector also faces several challenges including lack of adequate skill levels and personnel, perceived lack of Public sector support, and lack of recognition for Kenyan Operators in the global sourcing market.
The BPO sector currently employs approximately 3,000 youths, there are about five globally competitive BPO service providers in Nairobi. This translates to addition of about $20 million into the country’s revenue.
With a deliberate concerted effort to market and promote the sector, these numbers can grow exponentially, and Kenya can attract more foreign players, the employment numbers can grow to tens of thousands, and the operator numbers can be grown to over 20 organisations.
For Kenya to reap the fruits of the BPO sector certain deliberate strategic efforts have to be made towards that goal.
These efforts will address the challenges while developing our capacity to compete in the global BPO space, create massive employment opportunities for our youths.
The government needs to implement a massive Training and Certification for as many youths as possible and equip them with BPO service Delivery skills at all levels.
The government also needs to go on a marketing drive to position Kenya in the global sourcing market place, and to create visibility.
Besides, the state needs to support the local Sector players to participate in a B2B matchmaking event, and facilitate contractual discussions
Implementation of such an effort would result in several direct and indirect benefits to the country.
The tangible results from this would include massive immediate job creation for thousands of youths, immediate jump start of the BPO sector and placing the country on the map of competitive destinations, increased FDI and Revenue as well as enhanced skills among the youths.
This approach has been successfully implemented in leading BPO Destinations like India, Philippines, and closer home in Uganda. The question is why aren’t we taking deliberate steps to grow this vital sector in our country.
Jeremiah Okello, consultant in BPO industry.