Zim must wake up to internet business potential

ZIMBABWE has as its biggest strength human capital. With close to a 90% literacy rate and unfortunately 90% unemployment, Zimbabwe has an abundant human resource that is highly educated.

The education standards in Zimbabwe are next to no other country in Africa and comparable to the best in the world.
Theoretically therefore 60% of Zimbabwe’s GDP should derive from the services sector employing this abundant resource. A strategy for Zimbabwe that does not take this into account is defective. Not all our educated labour force can be absorbed in agriculture and mining. We need to find rewarding careers for all our graduates who graduate from tertiary institutions.
Thomas Friedman rightly gives us the solution by declaring that over the internet or the worldwide web, the world is flat! Business has no borders on the internet. Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) and Contact Centres have transformed economies in the world. The US$800 billion per annum BPO and Contact Centre market needs the attention of Zimbabwean business, and government support. PPPs need to be put in place to tap into the power of doing business via a robust ICT and internet structure. A lot of processes such as order-taking, appointment setting, draughting, bookkeeping, accounting, customer care and reservations, to mention a few, can now be done for anyone in the world from anywhere in the world over the internet. India, with a 52% literacy rate and the Phillipines have enhanced their economies by exploiting cheap bandwidth to allow their citizens to do global business from home through Contact Centres and other BPO offerings.
South Africa now employs more than 250 000 people in this sector alone. Government and business have funded the sector to take care of the opportunities it presents. A representative body, Business Process Enabling South Africa (BPeSA), spearheads industry growth and standards. Government and business go on joint global marketing missions for the sector.
Zimbabwe is a natural destination for BPO and Contact Centre work and with focus can employ more than 500 000 people in the sector within 10 years.
Government and business commitment is required to bring this vision to reality.
World class customer contact centres are needed in Zesa, TelOne, NetOne, water utilities, Zimra etc. Government has to allow the private sector to take over these interaction services on an outsource basis and invest in them as a precursor to marketing globally for offshoring contracts from the global market employing the experience gained.
It would be pleasant to call Zesa faults and actually get an answer after only three rings. It is possible provided there is a customer interaction centre with the right combination of people, processes and technology.
Present day ICTs allow make this possible.
The key to unlocking this sector is reduction of bandwidth and telephony charges/costs to the same level as the international levels. 1 Meg bandwidth should be about US$30, not the ridiculous prices on the local market.
Infrastructure has to be provided to enable business to be conducted on the internet with ease. Powertel must invest in last mile optic fibre connectivity and a fiscal provision has to be made for this necessary investment. Global connectivity through fibre is now a competitive advantage. Certainly global outsourcing/offshoring contracts will not find their way to Zimbabwe until the ICT costs are regulated to attract investments into the sector.

Kidwell Dumisani Nduku,
Managing director,
Advanced Contact Solutions.