The Sunday Mail
Calls for Government to set up a national call centre facility have been slowly gaining momentum since the turn of the millennium and facts on the ground suggest that now is the most opportune time for the country to turn this dream into reality.
Experts say setting up such a national facility comes with a number of benefits including creating jobs as well as boosting the local call centre industry which has so far failed to grow to its full potential.
A call centre is a centralised office used for the purpose of receiving or transmitting a large volume of requests by telephony.
These requests could range from reporting crime and emergencies and sourcing information about goods and services, among many others.
Call centres operate across many different industries, with telecommunications, insurance, banking and financial services industries being the most prominent.
According to the Contact Centre Association of Zimbabwe (CCAZ), the country has the potential to become a global call centre hub with a potential to create over 50 000 jobs within the next five years if Government takes the initiative.
Other developing countries such as Rwanda, Uganda and South Africa have already set up government national call centres, initiatives that have created thousands of jobs and raised prospects for international investors to step in for their own ventures.
Research shows that the call centre industry also has potential to contribute significantly to GDP growth in the future.
CCAZ executive secretary Mr Rinos Mautsa said investors are now favouring investing in less-congested countries such as Zimbabwe, an opportunity the country needs to embrace with both hands.
He also said the cost of setting up a national call centre is not as huge as many would think, and the figures involved were well within Government’s reach.
“Investors are now targeting less congested countries such as Zimbabwe and we must take advantage of the opportunity,” he said.
“Setting up a national call centre is well within the reach of Government bearing the fact that what is required is space, a few computer machines and a telephone network.”
Studies show that instead of having call centres in America, companies would rather opt to outsource this function to an offshore call centre in countries like India, South Africa and the Philippines.
Studies further show that operating in traditional destinations such as India are not only becoming expensive due to the exploding middle class but are far behind in terms of language proficiency when compared to African countries like Zimbabwe.
Consumer Council of Zimbabwe executive director Ms Rosemary Siyachitema also encouraged Government to set up a national call centre, saying all pro-consumer initiatives should be fully supported.
“As consumers we think the idea is noble, it has to be clear what purposes will it be serving though because we wouldn’t want to create a monster we don’t know how it works,” she said.
Zimbabwe has huge potential for growth in the call centre industry as it is open and well-connected to the rest of the world as well as having people who are hospitable and friendly.
The country also has a readily available labour force and a good education system with the highest literacy rate on the continent.
Zimbabwe offers a lower total (fully loaded) cost of setting up and running such services compared to competing regional locations, such as Mauritius, South Africa; or global locations such as India and the Philippines.
Bandwidth cost is coming down once the fibre optic connections are completed.
Zimbabwe’s call centre industry is dominated (99 percent) by facilities serving the domestic market and primarily in-bound customer service calls rather than outbound sales calls.
Setting a national call centre would enable Government to attract business from developed countries and big companies which are now outsourcing call centre services from countries like Zimbabwe in order to ease congestion and cost.
These services can be provided locally in these countries, but they are increasingly being conducted “offshore,” as numerous functions are outsourced to low-cost locations like India, the Philippines, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
This means that if, for instance, an American citizen is to call for assistance from the Government or a particular company, his or her call will be redirected and answered in Zimbabwe.