Abandoned and unused state-owned buildings are to be converted to Business Processes Outsourcing (BPO) centres to enable the country attract more subcontracts from the international market.
Alhassan Umar, Chief Executive Officer of Information Technology Enabled Service (ITES) Secretariat said: “State Construction Corporation (SCC) building near the State Transport Corporation yard in Accra, Public Workers Department workshops and warehouse at Abelemkpe junction in Accra and all state Food Distribution warehouse across the country have been targeted for BPO centres”.
According to Ghana News Agency, several state-owned buildings remain unused and abandoned, while budding BPO companies like call centres, data service renders, software developers and others are in need of space to seat thousands of employers to handle the non-core services for business organisation both in Ghana and abroad.
Meanwhile, BPO companies in the country complain of exorbitant private real estate rents, which could derail government's effort at making the country the number one destination for BPO jobs in Africa.
ITES, owned by the state and a facilitator of private sector involvement in the BPO business, through the Ministry of Communications, have therefore initiated moves to implement the project to keep the country's vision on track.
Umar said the structures would be renovated and given to the BPO companies at subsidised rates on condition that they would create more jobs for Ghanaians. “When this is done, we will create BPO jobs not only along the coast but also in the rural areas, which are closer to our neighbouring landlocked countries and therefore could attract clients from those countries,” he said.
Currently there are 20 known BPO companies in the country, providing 3,000 back office jobs, mainly in the areas of call centre services, with a few offering business, technical and knowledge-based services for both local and foreign companies. The popular BPO companies in the country include Exzeed, the Vodafone call centre employing more than 1,000 people; E-Service, the MTN call centre; ACS Services, also employing over a 1,000 people, GCNet, Soft Tribe, Persol, Data Transmission and a few others.
Opportunities still exist in non-core services in the banking sector, archiving, computer hardware and software, telemarketing and others for which hands on skills needs to be provided, but multinationals across the world are looking places where skills, infrastructure and the enabling environment already exist to assure them of efficient back house service.
Rating among 50 BPO destinations, done by AT Kearney, an American BPO ratings company placed Ghana first on Financial Attractions, due to relatively low cost of labour, low cost of living and the least record of financial crimes like money laundry.
Ghana also did well on Business Environment due to political stability, the free zones enclave and the recent facilitated business registration process, but the country performed poorly on Skills Training and Availability.
Umar said ITES had completed a curriculum for the training of 50 trainers in various ITES services who would intend to be used to train a targeted 10,000 people in the tertiary and vocational schools. ITES has also adopted 13 incubators, nurturing young businesses to grow into competitive BPOs. Some of the 13 incubators have developed products including home and car security systems, e-campus programmes for online learning in universities, education software for kids from kindergarten to Senior High School level.
He also said ITES had made proposals to some local banks, insurance companies and to the Social Security and Insurance Trust (SSNIT) in particular to completely offload their customer care services to BPOs in the country as a way of creating more BPO jobs and thereby building skills for the bigger market.
In terms of infrastructure, he said, with the SAT3 submarine landing station offshore the country, Ghana was poised to be a BPO hub, because the submarine cable could assure multinationals of faster speed of communication for their customers.
Apart from the SAT3, which has only 120 gigabyte speed, Glo-One with 640 gigabytes and Main-One with a whopping 1,920 gigabytes would also go live soon in Ghana and serve as backups for the SAT3. “Ghana is also a beneficiary of ECOWAS's submarine West African Cable System (WACS), which has 3,840 gigabytes,” he said.
The ITES Secretariat is one of three government agencies being funded with a $45 million World Bank loan to support ICT and information technology enabled services (ITES) institutions in the country. The other two are GICTech and E-Management.
ITES Secretariat is charged with facilitating private sector participation in ICT and BPO business, through human resources and capacity building, business support for Small Scale BPOs and Investment Promotions.
GICTech focuses on state organisations whiles E-Management, located within the Ministry of Communications, monitors and manages the two organisations.