It’s time for Africa to dominate the BPO market

A couple of decades ago, India was an economic backwater and China was pretty messed up too but their present economic realities are miles ahead of that now. China was lucky to start manufacturing early while India took a different route and became the leader for Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) centers

BPO is the practice of outsourcing aspects of a business’ functions to a third-party provider, usually to reduce costs and allow the business to focus solely on core business activities. BPO for customer support call centers is one of the most popular BPO services.

India, with its large population and relatively cheap labor, saw an opportunity and went on to become the backoffice for everyone. They didn’t have to manufacture anything; they just created tons of customer service agent jobs and trained people to speak passable English and find their way around the different back office software for their BPO clients.

If India could do it then, why can’t African countries do it now?

Many African countries, like India, have abundance of talent and lower labor costs. So, we have to ask; why isn’t the same happening in Africa?

You don’t need to be a graduate or even attend a polytechnic to excel in customer service. I recognize that these jobs are often undervalued and considered to be lowly and at the bottom of the economic pyramid. But if the average person in Africa today earns even just $150/month, they’d live like kings.

This opportunity exists, so why aren’t we seizing it?

Even though much of the continent still struggles with challenges like unreliable electricity and limited internet access, somehow, people have found ways to manage these issues with inverters, solar power, generators, and basic internet connections. 

We’ve got companies like iSON BPO and Outcess doing great things in Nigeria and supporting big companies like MTN. What stops more African-based BPO providers from springing up and even extending their services to foreign companies?

Ultimately, it boils down to a few things.

Nigeria as a case: key barriers keeping African BPOs out of foreign markets 

I’ll use Nigeria as a case study for the challenges barring African providers from serving the global market. The reason Nigerians (and Africans) struggle to enter foreign markets effectively can be attributed to several key factors:


There’s a pervasive issue with the quality of products and services in Nigeria. We often tolerate mediocrity and are always ready with excuses when things aren’t done well. Let’s compare the responsiveness and quality of assistance from a Nigerian company to that of a foreign company like Apple, for instance. Try this: send an email to a Nigerian company and raise a complaint about using their product or service, then send a similar email to Apple. 

It’ll be quite interesting to hear about your experience if you do this. But I can also tell you what’ll most likely happen. While Apple may not always respond promptly, the quality of their responses, compared to what you might get from a Nigerian company,  is usually exceptional. 

This discrepancy calls attention to the fact that in Africa, until we get to the point where people are well trained and accept that we can all do so much better, we’ll never be able to tap into the opportunities that exist even in our backyard. 

Not all companies are bad with quality; I’ll forever rep Cobranet for the customer service. In fact, they are a little bit too intense and personal but I can count on them come rain or shine.

P.S. Don’t try this experiment with Google, they’re notorious for their bad customer service; especially in the ads department. But when it comes to Google Workspace, customer support is surprisingly great.


Reliability is essential in building trust and credibility, and without it, businesses will struggle to gain the confidence of their clients or partners. Unfortunately, the average Nigerian worker is entitled, extremely unreliable, isn’t principled and lacks effective communication skills. 

With a reputation like this, how can we expect people to entrust us with what’s important to them?


As a BPO provider, businesses will have to give you access to their back office, and for financial services for instance, that means being able to see customers’ balances and confidential information. Establishing trust is crucial, particularly when dealing with sensitive information like this. Unfortunately, Nigeria’s reputation for being the hub of fraudulent activities and the infamous “419” central, often undermines trust in Nigerian businesses. 

In reality, most major frauds aren’t perpetrated by Nigerians but when it comes to Nigeria, it’s the bad stories that are pushed aggressively, so the negative perception persists. To overcome this, we need to work on repairing our image by sharing more positive stories, showing that we hold wrongdoers accountable and that we’re actively fighting fraud. 

Addressing these issues is vital for Nigerian businesses to gain traction in foreign markets and build sustainable relationships based on trust, reliability, and quality.

Africa as the next BPO capital of the world – it’s a good look

If we can effectively address these challenges, Nigeria could potentially become the next global hub for Business Process Outsourcing (BPO). We have 100 million young adults ready to work. Let’s provide them with proper training, cheap laptops, and internet access and begin to utilize this potential.

Contrary to the common belief, not all BPO activities require employees to communicate verbally and attempt (and usually fail woefully) to speak with fake foreign accents. Often, people just need to simply be able to read, write and answer questions.

Nigeria has tons of talented content writers. I’ve personally worked with a lot of great writers in Nigeria and I can tell you that they can rule the world. Look at our artists too who are already at the Grammys, selling out shows abroad and making waves globally. We have the capacity to own content creation, video creation, etc. and have foreign businesses outsource even their creative processes to us, if we can get our act together.

If we can overcome these obstacles, Africa can dominate the global market. Countries like Ghana and Nigeria, operating on Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), are ideally positioned to provide services to European clients. Similarly, French-speaking countries like Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, and Togo, as well as Portuguese-speaking countries like Angola and Mozambique, have the potential to cater to their respective language markets.

We can very easily take business from India who seems ready to drop this business anyway, so we don’t need to feel bad about it. With India growing out of BPO, we’ll start at the bottom. Africans will eat, we’ll put food on our tables, FX will come in and we’ll be proud of ourselves. And as we move up the value chain, other people can take it up from there. 

And we already have what we need.

While constant electricity remains a challenge in Nigeria, our neighboring countries have good electricity. Additionally, significant investments in fiber optic infrastructure, which have seen the MainOne, Glo 1  and Glo 2, and the West African Cable System (WACS) cables laid, have improved internet connectivity and lowered internet access prices over the last six years. 

Although laptops and PCs may still be relatively expensive, investing in these tools is essential for the work ahead and there are cheaper Chinese alternatives available, it doesn’t always have to be Dell or HP.

By addressing these issues and leveraging our existing resources and other enablers such as the provision of credit, Nigeria and Africa as a whole, can seize the opportunity to become a major player in the global BPO industry, leading to economic growth and prosperity for the continent as a whole.

The truth is, we already have an undue advantage with our abysmally poor currencies which makes our services cheaper and better.

It’s time to get in the game. We’ve waited too long already.

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Author: Adedeji Olowe

Adedeji / a bunch of bananas ate a monkey /

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