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

FIFA Indictments Put Gold Cup Tournament Under Cloud

Experts say US indictments could lead to charges of other world soccer officials, and lead to major shakeup in sport's governance More

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

At a recent even in Seoul, border communities promoted benefits of increased cooperation and North Korean defectors shared stories of life since the war More

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows to Fight IS 'Until They Are Killed or We Die'

In wide-ranging interview with VOA Persian service reporter, Fuad Masum describes conflict as new type of fight that will take time to win 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.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs