Investment Opportunities


Business Process Outsourcing


The global need for Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) services is growing at an annual rate of nine percent, and is expected to reach $250 million in 2010 according to the Information Technology Enabled Services website.

 

A Leader in BPO

 

Ghana's BPO industry scored the highest, followed closely by India, out of 50 countries in the 2009 A.T. Kearney Global Services Location Index. Ghana was ranked the 15th most favored destination overall. The industry is being modeled around the success of India's BPO industry, and has been identified as one of the government's focus areas for development. In 2005 and 2007, The AT Kearney Global Services Location Index ranked Ghana and South Africa as the only two African countries considered to be competitive in the industry. In 2009, Ghana was ranked number one as the preferred outsourcing destination in Sub-Saharan Africa.

 

A Government Emphasis

 

The BPO industry has shown signs of being an enabler of economic growth in other African countries such as Egypt, Mauritius, South Africa and Kenya. While Ghana's own BPO industry is fairly young and upcoming, it has a lot of potential to create jobs for Ghanaians and increase income levels among workers. The industry came into the lime light several years ago when the government of Ghana, through the Ministry of Communications, began placing emphasis on BPO as an economic driver. The government's interest in developing and shaping the industry has led to a lot of media attention.

 

In October 2009, the Ministry of Communications hired a US-based BPO advisory company, Avasant, to re-brand and market Ghana as a preferred BPO destination. Mr. Alhassan Umar, Director of the Information Technology Enabled Services (ITES) Secretariat under the Ministry of Communication, disclosed this to the Ghana News Agency (GNA) in Accra. He said, “Avasant is on a two-year contract to gather data on the BPO market in the country and design promotional tools to market Ghana’s BPO potential both here and abroad.”

 

Advantages

 

In the USA and UK, there are strong needs for quality English-speaking agents who are willing to work in shifts thereby providing their foreign clients the possibility of expanded hours. Clients are looking for better and more productive staff at a lower price to ensure lower operating costs and higher return on investment. In the event of a disaster, clients seek to ensure continuity by diversifying outsourced activities globally. Fortune 1000 companies are migrating customer service out of India to new emerging low-cost markets.

 

Ghana is seen as a preferred BPO destination due to its large pool of English-speaking labor, competitive labor costs and geo-political stability. The fact that Ghana has a reasonably large portion of the population also capable of speaking French puts Ghana in a position to offer valuable multilingual outsourcing services to its clients. Industry specialists also consider Ghana to have the following strengths:

 

  • High-energy, friendly and computer-literate talent

  • Educational institutions with capacity

  • Strong financial support from BPO industry, government, and World Bank

  • Demonstrated investor willingness

  • Peaceful, stable political environment with a high level of security

  • Located within GMT time zone

  • Stable, robust business environment.

 

Growth

 

Based on a study undertaken by Hewitt Associates in 2006, the potential human resource production rate for the BPO industry has increased by 5000+ each year since 2006. It is estimated that a total workforce of 94,727 or more will be absorbed by the industry by 2012 if the trend continues. This growth is based on the number of information technology students produced in the country each year and the number of skilled workers already in the system.

 

Listed below are the six leading BPO firms in Ghana, four of which are Ghanaian owned:

  • Persol Systems

  • E-Services

  • Rancard Solutions

  • Persol Systems

  • Affiliated Computer Systems (ACS)

  • IPMC.

 

The ITES secretariat is committed to transforming the service sector of the economy to become the largest source of employment and income realization by the government. Activities toward this end are mostly being run by the secretariat. Some of the current activities are:

  • Development - Concentrated efforts have been made to acquire investments from around the world through the Ghana Association of Software and IT Services Companies (GASSCOM). The association is under the secretariat and members have been given support to participate in international events to build partnerships and learn best practices.

  • Promotion - Promotions by the ITES secretariat resulted in five multinational companies coming to Ghana to do business. This has further boosted Ghana's reputation as the business hub for BPO outsourcing in Africa.

 

Challenges

 

  • Cost of Real Estate – costs are high due to the lack of grade “A” real estate suitable for the industry.

  • Telecom Infrastructure – Fiber optic loops are limited.

  • Cost of Broadband – Cost of broadband is extremely high, although that may improve as Ghana receives considerable increases in bandwidth.

  • Electricity – Power outages occur frequently, and electrical services are even more unreliable in rural areas. Facilities must use backup generators.

  • Management Depth – Ghana's BPO industry is relatively young and lacks management depth.

 

Solutions


In solving the infrastructure problem, the government is providing vacant buildings in the central district of Accra. These facilities are to be refurbished into plug-and-play infrastructure and the biggest BPO centre in Ghana. Also, a contract for the engineering and construction of the main ICT park to be located in Tema (a free zone area) is underway. This infrastructure is a plus in Ghana’s effort to reach the forefront when it comes to IT providing services.

 

The connectivity issue is being addressed by the Main One and Glo1 submarine cables, which should be operational in the fall of 2010 and will increase bandwidth more than 20 fold. The WACS cable is due in 2012 and should increase bandwidth to more than 50 times its current levels. Arrival of these additional cables will solve the redundancy and cost issues. Major fiber optic loops should be completed in 2010 for the central and northern areas of the country. Power outages are usually controlled by the use of backup generators.

 

Curriculum has been developed for training skilled people in this sector. The ICT is also promoting three ICT business incubators for the development of start up businesses in the country. It is anticipated that each of the three incubators can house up to 25 startups for a period of about three years.

 

There are plans underway for the establishment of another ICT park in Cape Coast and other regions in the country. (This is a long term plan.) ITES is negotiating with the Ghana Investment Promotion Council (GIPC) to establish special BPO incentives targeted at the ITES companies in Ghana.

 

Several key investment opportunities related to the BPO industry are listed below.

 

  • Adding a BPO presence – Comparative cost advantages make now a great time to establish a BPO presence in Ghana that can expand dramatically.

  • Investment in BPO infrastructure – now is a great opportunity to connect end users to the submarine and fiber optic cables.

  • Investment in educational institutions that will train the BPO workforce of the future.

  • Construction of BPO Facilities – prebuilt office space capable of housing major BPO firms is currently in great demand. The World Bank is investing millions of dollars to aid in this process, but it is anticipated that the demand will rapidly outstrip the supply of satisfactory office buildings.

 

Helpful Resources

 


References

 

Information Technology Enabled Services Brochure

Interview with Director of ITES, Mr. Alhassan Umar.