News Analysis: A Boost for the BPO/Outsourcing Industry?
Monday, 02 September 2013
ISON Growth, through an investment by Mo Ibrahim’s Satya Capital, have acquired Spanco BPO Africa Ltd, an outsourcing company with more than 3,400 employees across the continent and operations in ten African countries. ISON are also the controlling shareholder in ISON MARA, a joint venture with Uganda’s Mara Group. ISON MARA has a presence in 21 countries across the continent.

Spanco was one of the technology partners that Bharti Airtel – whose business model is heavily focused on outsourcing – brought along to sub Saharan Africa after their acquisition of Zain’s Africa operations.

For a few years, Kenya’s ICT Board had tried to promote Kenya as an outsourcing destination, but with limited traction so far – and now seems to have abandoned this objective. On a Kenya ICT mailing list, the former permanent secretary of the Ministry for Information, Dr Bitange Ndemo, argued: ‘Mid stream we changed policy and indeed communicated that we had shifted from marketing Kenya abroad to local outsourcing. (…)It was pointless to continue marketing Kenya abroad when we had sufficient work locally. (…) Once we became proficient and realized internal efficienies, then we could now move to the outside world. We still have the opportunity to use this strategy.’

However, industry insiders had argued that in order to become an outsourcing destionation, Kenya would have had to attract some of the major outsourcing operators who could bring both cash and technical capacity to the sector – the number of smaller, domestic operators were not able to convince multinationals that the country really had the capacity to handle large contracts. Spanco and Mara Group piggybacked on the arrival of Bharti Airtel. While Satya’s investment may well be another step towards building a sizeable pan-African outsourcing player in a still very young, fragmented industry, it looks like Uganda is now a step ahead of Kenya.

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