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News : Webhelp Aims to Create Jobs
Johannesburg, March 12, 2014 -- Webhelp, a global business process outsourcing (BPO) entrant in the South African market, aims to bring an estimated 1 500 new jobs to South Africa by the end of this year.
The company, which is based in Europe, has already opened a Cape Town contact centre – with around 550 seats – and is setting up its Johannesburg operation, says Craig Gibson, CEO of the local unit.
Gibson says the Johannesburg branch should have around 600 staff members by the end of the year. He says the group's potential pipeline of new clients looks healthy, and there is potential to get to 1 500 staff, "if not beyond that".
Webhelp South Africa is part of the Webhelp Group, which provides customer lifecycle management services across a range of digital, social and traditional voice channels to an international client base.
Gibson says the local unit took its first international call in Cape Town in September. He says the group's business plan is based on having around 5 000 jobs in five years, at between four and five centres.
However, Gibson notes, the issue is not creating jobs, but rather finding the rights skills.
BPO was meant to be one of the country's key economic drivers when the Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative for SA was unveiled, more than five years ago, with the aim of halving unemployment and poverty by 2014. It has since been replaced by the New Growth Plan, which targets five million jobs by 2021.
However, SA's BPO sector previously battled to aid government's targets, as it faced constraints such as rising electricity prices, the high cost of communications, and an insufficient pool of skilled workers.
SA was selected as a destination because of its commercial proposition, buoyed by the weak rand, and the quality of voice offerings, says Gibson. He says centres will initially serve the UK, and also hopefully the US and Australia in future.
Gibson adds companies do pay a slight premium to set up shop in SA, even with the state incentive, but the quality needs to be on a par with Europe. "Otherwise, go to India."
Local and foreign investors, registered as legal entities in SA, will be eligible for the programme if they create a minimum of 10 jobs.
The plan replaced the department's Government Assistance and Support initiative, which was criticised because of the amount of red tape involved in accessing the funds.
SA has set itself the target of creating about 30 000 new jobs by 2016. According to the industry umbrella association, Business Process enabling SA (BPeSA), the entire sector employs around 200 000 people, of which 20 000 are employed thanks to foreign direct investment (FDI).
BPeSA says although FDI still makes up a relatively small percentage of the overall arena, it is a rapidly growing area which has huge potential, illustrated by the amount of investment the sector has seen over the last two years as international outsourcers Capita, WNS, Serco and now Webhelp have opened in SA.
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Webhelp is a Paris-based international customer relationship management group.
Published: Friday, March 14, 2014