News / Africa

Uganda Looks to Outsourcing to Boost Employment

FILE - Men work on their laptops at the Endiro Cade in Kampala. FILE - Men work on their laptops at the Endiro Cade in Kampala.
FILE - Men work on their laptops at the Endiro Cade in Kampala.
FILE - Men work on their laptops at the Endiro Cade in Kampala.
Seeing the jobs and opportunities that outsourcing has brought to India, Uganda has opened up a business process outsourcing center and has been training people in Internet technology.  The whole Great Lakes region is hoping that foreign companies will move key functions to Africa and bring down soaring unemployment. But  Uganda's lack of IT infrastructure could hold the country back.

Flavia Aliteesa’s job may consist of little more than data entry, but still, the 26-year-old Ugandan IT graduate considers herself lucky to have a job at all.  Many of her classmates, she said, have been unemployed for years.

“First of all, I was given an opportunity to start working, otherwise I would have been seated back home doing nothing.  At least it has given me a sense of independence, since I earn and I can do something on my own,” said Aliteesa.

Aliteesa works for a Kampala-based company called Techno Brain, which provides business process outsourcing, or BPO, to foreign firms.  The Ugandan government is hoping companies like this will be the wave of the future.

Inspired by the success of countries like India, which has become a major outsourcing hub for Western companies, Uganda has been subsidizing its fledgling BPO industry by providing free office space and Internet in a new BPO incubator in Kampala.  The government has trained hundreds of graduates in BPO skills like IT, and plans to train thousands more.

James Saaka, head of the National Information Technology Authority, said BPO jobs could be the answer to Uganda’s pressing problem of youth unemployment.

“It’s a very active job, so it suits the young people.  Let the young people be employed and get them off the street.  Let them get the experience they need, and tomorrow they will become the entrepreneurs,” he said.

With its English-speaking population and time-zone proximity to Europe, East Africa could be an attractive location for call centers and data processing, said Rogers Karebi, head of the Uganda BPO Association.  Plus, he added, labor in other countries is growing more expensive.

“Quite a number of firms in India, Asia and the Middle East have stepped up their prices, so the cost of outsourcing to the initially indigenous BPO destinations is on the rise.  So, quite a number of firms in the demand markets are actually looking for alternative places to outsource to,” said Karebi.

But there are big differences between Uganda and India, not least of which is the cost and reliability of the Internet.  Karebi admited that this could be a big drawback in developing Uganda as a BPO destination.

“Comparatively, right now, you find that on average, we are paying about $708 per megabyte.  When you go to India, it’s close to $50.  You cannot compete at that level,” he said.

Most analysts agreed that the cost of Internet in East Africa would eventually come down.  But even this might not be enough, said outsourcing expert Stephan Manning of the University of Massachusetts.  At the end of the day, he said, the region just might not have anything special to offer.

“These services need to be distinct enough so that they don’t enter price competition.  And that’s exactly the problem.  In Kenya, if you provide English-speaking call center operations, then you do nothing different than the Filipinos or India, and there’s no way you can compete on costs,” he said.

Manning suggested that the solution may lie in the regional market.  By offering outsourcing services to neighboring countries, he said, Uganda could avoid competing with Asia.

In the meantime, thousands of Ugandan graduates like Aliteesa are hoping these new companies will find some way to prosper.

You May Like

Afghanistan, Pakistan Leaders to Hold Icebreaking Talks in Paris

Two sides are expected to discuss ways to ease bilateral tensions and jointly work for resumption of stalled peace talks between Afghan government and Taliban officials

Corruption Busting Is Her Game

South African activist is building 'international online community of thousands of corruption fighters'

Former SAF Businessman Gives Books, Love of Reading to Students

Steve Tsakaris now involved in nonprofit Read to Rise, which distributes books in Soweto, encourages lower-grade primary school students to read

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: nsubuga ali bashir from: kuwait
October 29, 2013 5:32 PM
Such initiatives are welcome but in countries in africa and uganda specifically such opportunities goes to government favourites

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs