Nigeria steps up to the BPO challenge
As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, Africa as a continent has tremendous potential for growth through outsourcing, with many of its countries offering excellent English, French and other European language skills, good standards of education, a strong cultural affinity, and near-European timezones.
However, Africa as a whole has suffered from the perceived political and economic instability of a handful of its countries, and from the perception of it having a uniformly poor infrastructure and an ailing overall economy.
Good news, then, that Nigeria is taking steps to change that perception and grab a slice of the IT and BPO pie.
The Nigeria Export Promotion Council (NEPC) has announced its intention to expand the country’s business and information technology outsourcing capacity, and to reposition the NEPC itself to harness the potential of Nigeria’s services sector.
Acting executive director Aliyu Lawal, said: “Over the years, NEPC has been aggressively promoting the development of our local products for export, but in recent times, we have discovered that there is even more money to be made from the export of quality services from the country.”
Lawal said he recognised that innovation and efficiency are crucial to the growth of new service industries, especially those enabled by online communications.
The NEPC clearly sees the need to talk to Nigeria’s friends and neighbours to expand the initiative elsewhere in Africa. The local ‘Bridges Across Borders’ scheme was set up by the International Trade Centre to encourage cross-border trade in services within a multilateral trading system, and Nigeria will host the fifth event under the banner in October this year.
As I said in the same recent blog, Africa as a whole has been taking a number of small steps (if not yet giant leaps) towards being a centre for offshore BPO services. Ghana, Morocco, Egypt and Senegal are all on analysts’ radar, with Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa also becoming increasingly vocal about the potential for growth.
Although South Africa’s progress has stalled against its relatively modest BPO targets, lets hope other countries in the region have greater success. What’s needed is a demonstration of a robust local infrastructure together with governments that talk up their skills and potential.