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.
x
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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

1855 Slave Brochure Starkly Details Sale of Black Americans

Document lists entire families that were up for sale in New Orleans, offering graphic insight into the slavery trade More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
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

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs