Fueling economic growth: The rise of Kenya as a global outsourcing hub

  • 21 Aug 2023
  • 3 Mins Read
  • 〜 by Kennedy Osore

In an era characterised by globalisation and technological progress, Africa is swiftly emerging as a dynamic player in the outsourcing landscape, with Kenya leading the charge. As countries on the continent establish their positions on the global outsourcing map, the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) sector is emerging as an economic powerhouse, providing an array of opportunities for both local and international businesses. Positioned as the region’s ICT hub, Kenya is spearheading this transformation, paving the way for a prosperous future in outsourcing.

A pivotal turning point emerged in 2007 when BPO was identified as a flagship cluster in Kenya’s Vision 2030 roadmap. With a strategic emphasis on nurturing a knowledge-based economy, Kenya has harnessed its prowess in ICT-based industries to tap into the growing demand for outsourcing services. This forward-looking approach has positioned the country as a hub for both domestic and regional outsourcing agreements. Moreover, Kenya’s commitment to cultivating an enabling environment has translated into tangible advantages, including tax incentives and infrastructure development, which entice both local and foreign companies to consider it a prime destination for their outsourcing requirements.

Crucially contributing to Kenya’s success in the outsourcing sector is the steadfast support from the government. Beyond advocating the growth of the outsourcing industry through policy incentives, the government has assumed the role of both a promoter and an active consumer of outsourcing services. This dual engagement not only bolsters the industry’s credibility but also generates an essential demand crucial for its ongoing expansion. The government’s dedication to outsourcing underscores its potential as a dependable and influential avenue for driving economic development. Demonstrating this support, the State Department for ICT and Digital Economy has established a key performance indicator aimed at creating 10,000 jobs in the BPO sector, as part of its programme outputs and performance indicators for the fiscal year 2023/2024.

The country’s outsourcing landscape is predominantly centered around two core areas: Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) and Information Technology Outsourcing (ITO). Within the realm of BPO, services span a wide spectrum, encompassing customer service, accounting, and human resources, while ITO services encompass software and web development, as well as data entry. This diversity enables companies to find tailored solutions that align with their specific needs, empowering them to focus on their core strengths by outsourcing non-core functions.

Kenya’s ICT industry has been experiencing impressive growth, exceeding 10% annually since 2016. This expansion has not only catalysed the nation’s digital transformation but has also stimulated broader economic reforms. The outcome? Kenya has evolved into one of Africa’s most business-friendly countries, solidifying its position as a premier outsourcing hub. With global giants like Meta, Cisco, and Google recognizing Kenya’s expertise, the nation’s outsourcing firms have gained prominence for their offerings in fintech, telecom, and customer support services. At the recent 8th Devolution Conference, US Ambassador to Kenya Meg Whitman highlighted that CGI Global, Kenya’s largest BPO company, is in the process of doubling its workforce to 8,000 employees, driven by its commitment to serving renowned American clients such as United Airlines, Spirit Airlines, JetBlue, AT&T, and Shipt. Alongside CGI Global, another prominent BPO company, Sama AI, employs around 4,000 individuals and is well-regarded for catering to esteemed clients including Google, Sony, Microsoft, Walmart, and Ford.

The outsourcing industry has transcended its early reputation as a source of low-skilled labour. Today, emerging market outsourcing involves high-value tasks such as end-to-end customer experience, web development, and data annotation for AI training. The focus has shifted from basic functions to specialised, talent-intensive tasks that demand a higher level of expertise. Companies are now outsourcing to skilled specialists who seamlessly integrate into their operations, challenging the traditional perception of outsourcing as limited to routine tasks.

As globalisation enters a new phase, traditional outsourcing destinations like India and the Philippines are grappling with challenges such as rising costs and labour shortages. This shift has created an opportunity for Africa, particularly Kenya, to emerge as a contender for high-quality outsourcing services. The continent boasts a motivated workforce, robust economic growth, and a strong education system, making it an attractive option for businesses seeking adaptable and trainable talent. The multilingual nature of Africa’s workforce further enhances its appeal, allowing for services to be provided in both global languages and regional dialects.

Kenya’s tech ecosystem has emerged as a formidable force, producing versatile talent experienced not only in programming but also in meeting diverse business needs. The comprehensive training available in Kenya’s tech landscape aligns perfectly with the demands of modern BPO services. With a substantial pool of software developers, a youthful demographic, and a culture of integration and innovation, Kenya is strategically positioned to offer world-class outsourcing solutions across various sectors.

The outsourcing landscape is undergoing a transformative shift, and Kenya is poised to play a pivotal role in this evolution. Backed by a government committed to fostering growth, a thriving ICT industry, and a skilled workforce, Kenya is unlocking fresh opportunities in the outsourcing arena. As the global market for BPO services continues to expand, Kenya’s distinctive advantages position it as the destination of choice for businesses looking to harness top-tier talent while optimizing operational costs.