Seacom – the start of a new era for SA contact centres?

The Seacom cable has at last been launched and the move to more, faster and cheaper international bandwidth in South Africa has begun. While consumers and businesses don’t expect any immediate drop in bandwidth pricing, the country’s burgeoning contact centre industry may not be wrong in expecting to see a resurgence of interest from international clients for ‘offshore’ services.

Previously, all overseas voice traffic moved through the monopoly controlled SAT3/SAFE cable that lands in Cape Town, at enormous cost, or had to make use of satellite connectivity – along with all the latency challenges this technology brought. For potential international contact centre customers
considering the use of local call centres for global 24×7 customer support, sales and service, this translated into a high cost, risky business.

What’s the alternative if disaster strikes and one needs redundancy, you can almost hear them ask. In fact, this was really all they could rely on, with little hope of price competition. Now Seacom offers them the opportunity of not having all their eggs in a single expensive basket. Is this the missing piece of the puzzle for the industry? Will it open the doors to investment?

The Seacom cable, while not a silver bullet to South Africa’s high communication costs, does double the available international bandwidth. Along with the lure of additional bandwidth the West Africa Cable System (WACS) and the Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System (EASSy) will bring over
the next two years, it may be enough – together with South Africa’s other highly appealing assets – to sway investors to re-evaluate the attractiveness of our destination.

In Malaysia and India large European and U.S. banks and ICT companies run massive offshore operations. South Africa can offer similar levels of call centre industry maturity with high levels of contact centre management and stable, reliable operations; we live in time zones that are compatible with service hours in these countries; speak in pleasant neutral English accents; and our government volubly encourages growth and investment in the local contact centre industry – all of which are attractive traits to international customers.

We have the infrastructure, the professionalism, the capability and the will to grow this industry. With just a little more assistance from government – say some revision of the tax laws pertaining to this industry to provide added investment incentive – perhaps the projected 4% per annum growth in
the South African contact centre industry can be nurtured and strengthened.

As part of the Avaya EMEA Business Partner Advisory Council, Spescom has on numerous occasions paused to assess South Africa’s capabilities against those of the best in the world – we are confident that if we can take hold of the opportunities that now come our way, South Africa can create a strong
foothold in this global industry.

By Paul Fick, MD of Spescom DataFusion