Cape may take lead in jobs

2016-03-03 06:00

Cape Town wants to create 200 000 jobs in the offshore call centre business over the next five years, taking on major players like India and the Philippines. But the industry needs about R312 million to create 10 000 jobs.

The city’s trade and investment director, Lance Greyling, said the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector had the greatest potential for job creation amongst the youth of Cape Town.

The city’s latest Economic Performance Indicators for Cape Town (Epic) report reveals that, apart from tourism, the BPO industry has been the biggest provider of jobs – over 45 000 in the Western Cape over the past 10 years.

The 29 400 offshore jobs are more than KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng combined.

It is estimated that the call centre businesses contribute R10.9 billion to the Western Cape’s Gross Geographic Product. Historically, India has been the leading country in terms of the offshore call centre industry but the Philippines has also managed to create over a million jobs in this sector.

According to the Epic report, the current domestic conditions and the weak rand make BPO a strategically important export industry for Cape Town in the short to medium term.

Mayor Patricia de Lille said the city was determined to support the BPO industry to create jobs.

“When you give an unemployed person a job, you restore their dignity and faith and make them feel like part of the country,’’ said De Lille.

For the past four years, the city had been trying to shift the perception that Cape Town was a tourism destination only, she added.

Gareth Pritchard, the chief executive of Business Process Enabling South Africa (BPESA) said the country had the potential to create 500 000 jobs in this sector.

“If we get the skills pool right, work readiness and middle management, there’s no reason why we can’t grow this industry.

“We need a healthy mix of skills and management,’’ he said.

“The challenge to meeting this target is twofold: raising the funds to train thousands of jobseekers, and getting them to the point of being ready to work.

“If we don’t address the core skills challenges, nothing will change,” said Pritchard.

BPESA is largely targeting international companies to outsource their call centres to South Africa.

Major service providers involved in bringing overseas contracts to Cape Town include Vodafone, Shell, Amazon, Walmart, Lufthansa, British Gas and EasyJet.

A proposal has been submitted to the Jobs Fund to assist in the development of skills academies, so that young school leavers and unemployed graduates can be trained to take up jobs as call centre operators and managers.

The industry also requires capable young leaders – 10 leaders for every 100 jobs.

Unemployed graduates, Pritchard said, had the potential of stepping into these leadership roles.

According to BPESA, research has found that in 30 percent of cases, South African operators serving overseas countries are offering a better service than their counterparts abroad.

The quarterly labour force survey, released last week, revealed that unemployment in the Western Cape is currently standing at 19.4 percent, below the national average of 24.5 percent.

It has the lowest unemployment rate of all provinces in the country.

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