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BPO’s a linchpin for Uganda’s economic growth

In Africa, countries like Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, South Africa, Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Rwanda are seeing rapidly growing BPO industries

COMMENT | ANGELLA KAKUMIRIZI | Businesses worldwide are increasingly adopting Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) to manage their non-core functions. From customer service roles, such as call centers, to back-office processing that includes claims, payments, finance, and procurement, BPO has become the norm for enhancing efficiency and allowing companies to channel their efforts, energy, and creativity into boosting productivity.

Indeed, available statistics indicate that the BPO market is estimated to be more than US$260 billion and is expected to exceed $500 billion by 2030, according to Grand View Research. Interestingly, much of this revenue is destined to countries like the Philippines, India, Ukraine, Poland, Mexico and Brazil, which boast of vibrant BPO industries employing hundreds of thousands of young people.

In Africa, countries like Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, South Africa, Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Rwanda are seeing rapidly growing BPO industries. Meanwhile, Uganda is embracing this trend, albeit at a slower pace, with companies such as Helpware which entered the market in 2023 – offering services to international clients while transforming lives of the local communities through job creation.

Globally, BPOs have become a new standard in business operations, enhancing efficiency by delegating non-core functions such as customer service and back-office processing to external specialists. This shift is not only streamlining operations but also fostering innovation and securing a competitive edge.

For Uganda, where 75% of the population is under the age of 30 according to World Bank statistics, the BPO industry offers a unique opportunity to address some of its most pressing challenges, including a youth unemployment rate that is significantly above the double digits. The high levels of literacy and proficiency in English among the youth provide an easy path for them to gain entry into meaningful employment, uplift their entire communities, and stimulate economic growth.

However, the BPO industry in Uganda faces numerous challenges that hamper faster growth. These include high internet costs, excessive taxation, and limited digital skills. These issues need urgent attention for our BPO industry to thrive and compete with countries such as the Philippines or Mexico, which benefit from tax breaks due to the importance attached to the sector.

At Helpware, we are actively addressing these challenges by investing in local talent and infrastructure and innovating with AI and technology solutions that enhance our global service offerings. Our recent acquisition of eTeam in Kyiv, Ukraine, and the development of technologies that adjust accents are testaments to our commitment to excellence and adaptability to serve various markets around the world.

The BPO industry in Uganda, still in its nascent stages, is poised for significant expansion. However, to fully realize this potential, a collaborative effort among government, industry, and educational institutions is essential. We need policy reforms to reduce internet costs and provide tax incentives, and educational programs must better align with the digital and communication skills demanded by BPO markets.

The expansion of the BPO sector in Uganda could serve as a model for economic and social development. Let us seize this opportunity to transform our demographic challenges into economic triumphs, ensuring a prosperous future for the next generation of Ugandans. Together, we can make Uganda not just a participant but a leader in the global BPO industry.

BPO is more than an industry; it is a pathway to development that Uganda must pursue with strategic intent and vigorous commitment. Let us harness this global wave to enrich our nation and empower our youth. The time for action is now; let us embrace the potential of BPO and make it a linchpin of Uganda’s economic strategy.

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Angella Kakumirizi is the General Manager, Africa – Helpware.

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