South Africa ranked top global business services sector location for 2021

In a boost to business confidence, South Africa has won an award as the top global location for business process services, in a sector that is rapidly expanding locally and exporting call-centre and related services to other parts of the world. South Africa was named as the Most Favoured Offshore CX Delivery Location for 2021, in the Annual Front Office BPO Omnibus Survey.

This is a welcome achievement for the South African business service industry, which has positioned itself as one of the premier locations internationally for business services. It comes on top of a growth in jobs due to enhanced-partnerships with government. The business services sector, which includes call centres, technical support and back and front office services for major multinationals and South African firms, has seen exceptional growth in recent years, and has been a major source of job creation for young South Africans.

Ranked number two last year, South Africa has beaten stiff competition from India, Philippines, Malaysia, Poland, Egypt and Northern Ireland to claim the top award for the first time. Growth in the sector has been driven by strong support by government, through the incentives offered by the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (the dtic). This support has helped to showcase the talent, technology and know-how of South Africans and to allow them to compete against the best in the world.

Sector-growth was interrupted by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 that led to closure of businesses in many parts of the world. However, the Minister for Trade, Industry and Competition, Ebrahim Patel issued regulations during the lockdown that enabled call-centres supporting local and global essential services to continue to operate, where firms in other locations could not. Further support was provided by the Presidential Jobs Fund during the pandemic. Together with the dtic incentives, the Jobs Fund has supported 14 300 new jobs in the sector with R1.9 billion in export revenue.

“This sector is a large and growing employer of labour. The ‘reimagined industrial strategy’ outlined by President Cyril Ramaphosa in 2019 laid the basis for growing established sectors (like clothing, poultry, sugar and steel) and emerging or new sectors (such as call centres, the green economy and digital industries). Industrial development is no longer only about manufacturing – productive services like business process services (BPS) and film-making are examples of new job-creators that we are actively backing. The digital revolution is placing greater emphasis on provision of strong, technical support through call-centres. Firms in the sector want to be located close to a source of skilled workers. The rapid expansion of business process services is a tribute to the skills of young South Africans and evidence of what South Africa has to offer as a business and investment destination,” said Minister Patel.

The South African industry believes it is poised to experience even higher growth rates in the years ahead and has set its sights on supporting employment and investment by growing the export segment of the business services sector to employ tens of thousands of new workers in the next few years.