OPINION | Business process outsourcing: an island of hope for jobs?

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David Maynier (Supplied)
David Maynier (Supplied)

In a challenging year, the BPO sector has been an "island of hope", creating 7 354 additional jobs in the last year in the Western Cape - one of only two sectors to have done so, writes David Maynier. 


South Africa has been voted the most favoured offshore Business Process Outsourcing destination in 2021, according to the annual Ryan Strategic Advisory Front Office BPO Omnibus Survey, after having sat at second place for the previous three years.

The Western Cape is responsible for 65% of the BPO market in South Africa. This ranking considers the views of 628 enterprise contact centre decision-makers across the demand markets of Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK and the USA.

In a challenging year, the BPO sector has been an "island of hope", creating 7 354 additional jobs in the last year in the Western Cape - one of only two sectors to have done so.

Importantly also, this sector is creating jobs for young people in the Western Cape, with many of those already employed in the sector coming from areas such as Mitchells Plain, Khayelitsha, Gugulethu and Delft.

Research indicates that the BPO sector continues to have a high potential for employment and that there are still significant opportunities to grow the province’s global market share.

And the sector continues to show great resilience and adaption during the Covid-19 pandemic, taking advantage of digital technologies and remote working to expand their offering to international and domestic clients. Which is why we are working with industry representatives and businesses in the sector to develop an aggressive strategy for growth in the Western Cape.

This strategy will focus on marketing the destination to global BPO companies, and creating an enabling environment for businesses in Cape Town and the Western Cape, which includes developing a talent pipeline of skilled young people ready to step into the new roles created. Through our Work & Skills programme we have created 1 166 full-time jobs in the BPO sector through the Department of Economic Development and Tourism’s Work and Skills programme in the last financial year.

And, as a result of the success of our Work and Skills programme, we have allocated a further R98.82 million over the medium term to provide 3 000 unemployed youth with experiential learning opportunities in the BPO sector. Through these co-funded programmes, we provide stipends of between R3 000 to R3 500, to support 4- to 12-month work placements for young people between the ages of 18 and 35 years, giving them on-the-job training in critical skills areas.  

The high level of unemployment among school graduates with good communication skills offers a significant talent supply opportunity to global players in the BPO sector, and so we have seen an exceptionally high up-take of young people moving into permanent employment following their work placements in the BPO sector. We will continue to prioritise our skills development initiatives in this sector so that we can create more jobs, especially for young people, in the Western Cape.

And the BPO sector will continue to be one of the key sectors that we showcase as we present a common message to the world: that both Cape Town and the Western Cape are open for business.

David Maynier is Western Cape MEC for Finance and Economic Opportunities. Views expressed are his own. 

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