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East Africa broadband could bring lower cost BPO

East Africa now has broadband after Seacom completed the installation of a fibre optic link to Europe.

This will open up new potential destinations for offshore business services for UK firms, with countries such as Kenya boasting a high proportion of people that speak English as a first or second language. Like India, which is a business offshoring powerhouse, Kenya was a British colony.

The 1,28Tbyte per second submarine fibre optic cable system runs for 17,000km, linking south and east Africa to global networks via India and Europe.

With average wages very low in Africa, this could lead to services such as call centres being run from Africa. India built its BPO dominance on the fact that it had low labour costs compared with Europe and the US.

Commenting on the completion of the project, Brian Herlihy, Seacom CEO, said, "This marks the dawn of a new era for communications between the continent and the rest of the world. Our tireless efforts of the past 24 months have come to fruition, and we are proud to be the first to provide affordable, high-quality broadband capacity and experience to east African economies. Turning the switch on creates a huge anticipation, but ultimately Seacom will be judged on the changes that take place on the continent over the coming years."

Andy Gallagher, consultant at Compass Management Consulting, said India started as a low-cost destination but had the advantage of well-established and well regarded universities.

He said that a big European organisation could invest in places like Kenya and benefit.

"Low wages and political stability are important stating points," he added.


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