By Bereng Mpaki
MASERU- The establishment of a vibrant call centre business that could rival the best in the world is possible in Lesotho, a study conducted by the Lesotho Communications Authority (LCA) has indicated.
Titled The Feasibility Study for Call Centre Business in Lesotho, the project was undertaken last year by consultants Analysis Mason, and established the country could achieve a globally competitive cost-per-call that would compare favourably with the Philippines, which is the world’s leader in this line of business.
The study was conducted with a view call centres—centralised offices used for the purpose of receiving or transmitting a large volume of requests by telephone—could become an important source of employment opportunities in Lesotho.
According to the findings of the study, among the advantages that make Lesotho an attractive destination for investors in the call centre business are low wages, English language skills and readily available workforce due to the country’s high level of unemployed graduates.
“Lesotho meets many of the critical success factors, while facing challenges in other areas. The low-wage economy is a major advantage, as are language skills and potential workforce,” reads the report.
It continues: “A cost modeling exercise indicated that Lesotho could achieve competitive call per centre seat per hour of circa at US$3.30; this compares favourably with the Philippines at US$16 and Eastern Europe at US$11.”
The big challenge for Lesotho however, would be lack of necessary infrastructure which the report highlights is expensive to set-up. In addition, the relatively small indigenous population is another possible limiting factor in terms of the scale of internal demand for such services, the report adds.
“Infrastructure is a major area where improvements would be required. Although plans to develop better connectivity look promising, expensive call centre technology would have to be implemented. However, the financial model suggests that despite these costs, there could be a business case for establishing call centre operations in Lesotho. Indeed, the study found there were no fundamental reasons why Lesotho should not develop as a hub for call centre business,”
The study has further shown Lesotho has very few call centres at present, with all of them being small-scale operations with fewer than 30 seats. The study also showed the available call centres did not offer outsourced services, while also revealing many public and private sector organisations have not historically placed a high importance on handling calls from the public in a prompt and efficient manner.
The LCA, meanwhile, recommends a phased approach into developing call business in Lesotho.
“Our strategic recommendations are to take a phased approach into developing a call centre business in Lesotho. This will allow the country time to develop its capacity and mitigates the risk of embarking on over-ambitious schemes that may not be viable. It is recommended some early intervention by deploying call centres for government use. The involvement of the Lesotho National Development Centre (LNDC)would be beneficial, for example, through making suitable accommodation available, as would educational institutions which could offer specialist training courses. The government can also help by optimising the business environment: for example, growth in the Indian call center sector was , in part, assisted by tax breaks to encourage private sector investment, and in other countries, the creation of ‘low tax zones for e-commerce purposes has been a stimulus.
“Given the relatively small scale of the Lesotho market, early measures to attract call centre business from South Africa are seen as strategically important in gaining the economies of scale necessary for the businesses to succeed. Competing in the global market remains a medium-to-long-term objective, although this might be accelerated by forming alliances with companies in countries that already serve this market, and acting as their satellite location in southern Africa.”
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