Despite the challenges resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic, South Africa has rapidly expanded into a trusted, internationally recognised global business services (GBS) destination of choice.

Strong government support, technological readiness, first-world infrastructure, and skilled talent have ensured that South Africa has been able to meet these unpredictable market forces with a high level of resilience and opportunities are now more than ever coming to the fore.

According to Zain Patel, the incoming chair of Business Process Enabling South Africa (BPESA), even before events of the past 19 months, South Africa was an attractive destination for organisations to offshore their business processes, particularly in financial services, ICT, HR outsourcing and contact centres.

“But what has now happened is that the country has been able to position itself as a serious role player in the global market for offshore finance, accounting services, and other critical GBS offerings. South Africa is a medium-cost, high-quality English-speaking customer experience destination that has shown its worth despite the challenges caused by the pandemic.

“Working with government and other industry role players has enabled us to position the company at a strategic level to assist other markets in meeting their business services mandate with a skilled local workforce,” says Patel.

Cost-effective and growing talent pool

In part, this can be attributed to the fact that the country was able to transition quickly to a remote-working model. Many local companies were able to relocate operations from other sites while still providing a high level of service delivery.

“This has seen South Africa coming to the attention of multinational organisations looking to diversify their service delivery portfolios geographically. Being an English-speaking market with a favourable time zone for European business, it makes sense to partner with South Africa for GBS delivery.

“From an economic standpoint, being able to pay local rates make for a compelling value proposition for European and North American business where wage cuts have seen many people in those countries not willing to work for a wage less than the grants they might receive otherwise,” adds Patel.

BPESA research has shown that South Africa provides a base of operations at almost 70% lower costs than in the UK and Australia and up to 35% lower than other leading centres of excellence locations. The country also boasts a large, young, and trainable talent pool, with a strong understanding of technology.

Government partnership

Critically, government has played a key role to align policies and granting ‘essential services’ status to the GBS sector during the hard lockdown period last year. This resulted in the rapid mobilisation of stakeholders to enable remote and on-premise working where required.

Furthermore, there were instances of provincial governments extending their support to the home deliver laptops to employees and increasing benefits and incentives for the GBS sector.

Government has been committed towards putting in place the pillars of support to create a globally competitive economy. Its mandate is to do so as competitively, equitably, and socially responsible as possible to strengthen the reputation of South Africa as a leader in the delivery of GBS on a worldwide level.

Ebrahim Patel, minister of Trade, Industry, and Competition, issued regulations during the lockdown that enabled call-centres supporting local and global essential services to continue to operate, where firms in other locations could not. Further support was provided by the Presidential Jobs Fund during the pandemic.

Together with the DTIC incentives, the Jobs Fund supported 14 300 new jobs in the sector with R1,9-billion in export revenue. To date, there are more than 240 000 consultants working in the GBS sector here, with approximately 50 000 focused exclusively on international business.

South Africa has a competitive and compelling value proposition for the major sourcing markets, offering capabilities that extend across the end-to-end customer journey. The country services a range of outsourced complex functions that include software development, technical support, finance, legal and HR. Government has been very supportive to enable the GBS sector to grow during one of the most difficult times in recent memory. BPESA initiatives, developed in partnership with many role players, reflect the importance of putting in place an environment that sees South Africa attract global investment interest.

An invaluable customer experience destination

This has seen South Africa become a leading global delivery location for customer experience (CX), niche, and next-generation digital services. When it comes to CX, the availability of an accent-neutral and empathic large workforce with niche domain skills and enabling infrastructure, the environment is such that significant opportunities for growth are unlocked.

“The cultural affinity South Africa’s young workforce has with the UK, Australia, and the US provide a positive environment where support is delivered to the high quality expected of a global workforce. The country is a dependable service delivery destination of choice to meet virtually any requirement of GBS regardless of the industry or size of business,” says Andy Searle, CEO of BPESA.