Last Tuesday, 485 youths were passed out by Makerere University’s School of Computing and Informatics Technology after completing a two-month certificate course in BPO. BPO is the strategic use of third party service providers to perform a company’s activities traditionally handled by internal staff and resources. This enables a company to focus more on its core business.
BPO is often divided into two categories: back office outsourcing, which includes internal business functions such as billing or purchasing, and front office outsourcing, which includes customer related services such as marketing and technical support.
The roadmap to establishing a BPO industry in Uganda started a year ago following government’s establishment of the National Information Technology Authority Uganda (NITA-U) as part of the Job Stimulus Programme (JSP) that sets out to holistically enable young and often underprivileged people start enterprises. According to Betty Bigombe, chairwoman NITA-U, BPO is the latest cash cow for developing countries with phenomenal market levels estimated to be over $1.1 trillion per annum.
“Many emerging economies have engaged in this new industry,” says Bigombe.
Countries like India, Philippines and, recently, Mauritius have cashed in on this industry and have made billions of dollars through provision of Information Technology Enabled Services (ITES) to American, European and Asian companies. India currently controls between 5-8 percent shares of the world total BPO industry.
Other countries like South Africa, Egypt, Kenya, China and Hungary are positioning themselves to have a share in the global BPO industry.
“One of the critical success factors of ensuring the growth of the BPO industry in any country is development of a critical mass of BPO skilled personnel, among others. Hence our government’s prioritization of BPO skills development is a first step in building a critical mass,” Bigombe said.
Makerere University partnered with Orion Outsource World and the African BPO Academy (ABA), a certified BCI Training Provider to conduct the training. The training curriculum was designed to provide the participants with the necessary knowledge and skills that can enable them pass the internationally accredited certification in BPO offered by BPO Certification Institute (BCI), a global leader in BPO training and certifications.
This training is part of NITA-U’s roadmap for the development of the BPO industry in Uganda, which has so far cost Shs 5bn. In addition to the training, government is in the process acquiring a government-owned call centre where operators can hire space to run their business among other incentives. This, it is estimated, will employ over 1,000 people.
According to Gilda Odera, director and founder Africa BPO Academy, the success of BPO industry in Uganda will depend on government’s commitment to invest heavily in the sector.
In Kenya, for example, where the industry is quickly picking up, government has so far invested $250 million since the industry’s establishment three years ago.
Minister for ICT, Aggrey Awori, said the training shows government’s commitment to the establishment of the BPO industry.
“The training programme should provide us with the opportunity for the country to gain a competitive edge over other emerging BPO markets because of the key role BPO skilled personnel play in attracting both local and international BPO business,” Awori said.
According to Awori, government has managed to address the issues of policy framework by passing the three cyber laws (Computer misuse, Electronic Signatures and Electronic transactions) and the development of BPO strategy and model for Uganda which will be updated this year.
The BPO industry is expected to take advantage of the National Backbone Infrastructure and other communication facilities provided by local service providers like telecommunication companies and internet service providers. Uganda recently injected $100 million in the establishment of Internet infrastructure to cover a distance of about 5,000 km.