Africa could become the next India in terms of business process outsourcing (BPO) as well as expanding into knowledge process outsourcing (KPO) services. But different countries must work together to develop a regional brand, spread workloads and share risks. 

These were the key messages that came out of the Third African Outsourcing & Contact Centre Conference held in Nairobi last week.
The programme of presentations and workshops attracted both existing BPO operators and enterprises planning to invest in new outsourcing operations. Speakers from South Africa, the UK, USA, India, Egypt, Ghana, Mauritius and Kenya shared a range of experiences, best practices in technology deployment and marketing techniques.
The conference highlighted the potential in Africa not just for BPO but also for KPO in high-value services in varied areas such as HR, procurement, transcriptions, animation and specialized software development.
In a keynote address, Kerry Hallard, board member of the UK’s National Outsourcing Association, said that Kenya had great potential in the UK’s outsourcing market and gave the delegate valuable pointers on how to market services to UK companies.
Another keynote presentation was by Mark Hill, vice-president for global operations at Teleforma in Mauritius. He emphasised the need for outsourcing operators in various countries to develop alliances and share work-loads in order to spread risks and maximize capacity.
Hussein Kamel, planning & decision support manager at Xceed Contact Centre in Egypt, in a provocative presentation entitled “Africa: The next Bangalore?” called on the region’s outsourcing industry to co-operate in developing a strong regional brand and undertake joint marketing exercises.
Paul Kukubo, CEO of the Kenya ICT Board, pledged the board’s strong support for the BPO sector as a top priority on its agenda and said it would be developing a strong national outsourcing brand for Kenya. It is the government’s target that the BPO sector should provide direct and indirect employment for 100 000 Kenyans by 2012.
Dr Bitange Ndemo, Kenya’s Permanent Secretary for Information & Communications, urged the business community to take advantage of the enabling environment the government had created. He highlighted the bandwidth subsidy scheme for BPO operators that his ministry has set up using World Bank funding.
His Minister, Mutahi Kagwe, who closed the conference at the end of the second day, reinforced this message, and also called on financial institutions to take a less conservative approach when considering funding applications from companies and entrepreneurs planning to set up outsourcing operations.