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Uganda Looks to Outsourcing to Creat Jobs

2013-11-3
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From VOA Learning English, this is the Technology Report.

For years, many western companies have sent important business services to India, where they can be done at lower cost. This is called outsourcing, and it has brought jobs to India. Other countries have seen the economic benefit of outsourcing and are seeking to copy the Indian model.

For example, officials in Uganda have opened an outsourcing centre to train people in Internet technology. Their aim is to create jobs for Ugandans.

26-year-old Flavia Aliteesa studied information technology in school. Today, she is happy to have a job but does not perform high level IT work. She says, many of her former classmates 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.

Flavia Aliteesa works for a company called Techno Brain, it offers business process outsourcing, or BPO, to foreign companies. The Ugandan government hopes more companies like Techno Brain will begin operating in the country.

Uganda supports its small but growing BPO industry by giving free office space and Internet service in Kampala. The government has trained hundreds of people in the skills that BPO companies need, and plans to train thousands more.

Many people in Eastern Africa speak English, and the area is in the same time-zone as Europe. So countries there could be good places for call centers and data processing. And says Rogers Karebi, the head of the Uganda BPO Association, labor costs in other countries are growing.

"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, one of the most important is the cost of Internet service. Most experts agreed that the cost of Internet service in East Africa would eventually be lowered, but even this might not be enough.

Stephan Manning is an outsourcing expert at the University of Massachusetts. He says, East Africa 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," said Manning.

He says it might be better for African countries to offer their services to neighboring countries. That way, he says, they would not being competition with Asia.

And that's the VOA Special English Technology Report. I'm June Simms.