Uganda has potential to become a top BPO destination, experts say

This was revealed this week during NBS Breakfast Meeting discussion on Uganda’s incredible potential of BPO.

BPO is the acquisition of external services from third party service providers to facilitate internal operations.

BPO originally applied solely to manufacturing entities, such as soft drink companies like CocaCola, Pepsi. However, today, BPO now applies to the outsourcing of various products and services.

As more Ugandan service providers continue to apply BPO, the government of Uganda through the Ministry for ICT and National Guidance has developed a BPO policy to leverage Uganda’s potential of becoming a top BPO destination on the continent, with an aim of driving economic growth.

According to Diana Nandagire, the director of Entrepreneurship, Incubation Centre at Makerere University Business School (MUBS), Uganda’s BPO is strategically positioned to grow notably because of lower labour costs compared with other countries globally where BPO services are provided.

Nandagire, who is also a member on the BPO Council, highlighted Ugandans’ proficiency in English as another key factor in Uganda’s potential in becoming a BPO destination.

“Most of these companies that outsource these processes are dealing with clients that speak English. Ugandans can speak English well. So, in that way, I can say that as a country, we have the opportunity,” Nandagire said.

However, she says whereas Uganda’s young people have ICT skills, there is still need to prepare them for the BPO sector, something she says they are already doing at MUBS.

On top of preparing the youth for the BPO work, she says more efforts are needed to market Uganda as a preferred BPO destination.

“There is need to train these people to make them work-ready, provide them with infrastructure, bring down Internet costs. There’s also need to market Uganda as preferred BPO destination. We still need to let the clients know that we are here to provide these services,” Nandagire says.

Speaking from his experience as a BPO owner, Hareesh Sahadevan, the managing director of Emvigo Technologies Africa and BPO Services says when they started in 2018, the faced a big challenge of Ugandan companies not understanding the value of BPO services. However, he says the perception on BPO has steadily changed over the years.

“Currently, things are changing. There is potential for Uganda which the entire world is looking at. We have also showcased our capabilities outside Uganda and Uganda as well. With time things will change,” Sahadevan says.

However, Rogers Karebi, the chairperson of Uganda Association cautions that as Uganda enters the BPO business, there is need to keep note of risks in terms of service providers and buyers themselves.

He pointed out the risk of inconsistency in peace and stability which he says can pose a very big challenge in terms of attracting buyers.

How is Uganda positioning itself to become a top BPO destination?

According to Karebi, as the BPO association, they are benchmarking in terms of what other countries in the BPO business are doing to make Uganda a top BPO destination globally.

Karebi says they have organised a conference in September this year where they have invited global BPO associations and stakeholders from Kenya, South Africa, India and other leading countries in the BPO, to give Ugandans snippets of how to grow BPO sector.

“As a sector that is trying to get into a very competitive market, we need to benchmark against the global leaders,” Karebi highlighted.

He adds that they are also working closely with the BPO Council and other stakeholders to sensitise the local buyers in a bid to grow domestic demand for BPO.

Nandagire, says the BPO Council, together with the ICT ministry, are coming up with a policy to promote and increase trade, and to create an enabling environment for BPO business.

“The policy looks at how costs can be brought down, a good tax regime such that companies that are starting up find it easy to access internet, infrastructure, and that means that we attract a client abroad to establish BPO centres that will create employment opportunities to our people.”

Meanwhile, Sahadaven says the task to promote Uganda’s BPO potential should not be an entire government role.

“It’s not an entire government role. There’s also need for BPO companies, BPO Council to showcase the potential, keep improving and bringing in more business.” he says.

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