Youth Unemployment in South Africa: The Role of the BPO Industry in Creating Opportunities

South Africa is grappling with a pressing issue: soaring youth unemployment rates. Currently standing at a staggering 62.1%, youth unemployment in the country surpasses the national average by a significant margin. The consequences of this crisis are far-reaching, manifesting in higher poverty and crime rates, increased social exclusion, inequality, and social instability. However, amidst this grim reality, there is a glimmer of hope emerging from the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector.

In 2021, the Annual Front Office Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) Omnibus Survey ranked South Africa as the top destination for BPO worldwide. Recognizing the job opportunities and investment potential it presents, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has identified the BPO sector as a priority sector, particularly for addressing youth unemployment. Peter Andrew, Managing Director of CCI South Africa, highlights how the BPO industry offers a space for young individuals with limited education levels to enter the job market, gain valuable experience, receive training, and earn a full-time income.

The South Africa business process outsourcing market size is projected to reach USD 3.6 billion by 2027, growing at a CAGR of 13.2% during the forecast period.

However, despite the potential of the BPO industry, retaining young employees in this competitive sector can be a challenge. To address this issue, Peter Andrew, MD of CCI South Africa, and Vusani Ntini, Chief People Officer at CCI SA, emphasize several key strategies.

Firstly, meeting the needs and preferences of young employees is crucial. Providing access to amenities such as canteens, medical facilities, hair salons, and sporting facilities creates an environment where young employees can focus on their job without distractions. Additionally, CCI has strategically located their offices in areas convenient for their workforce, recognizing the importance of a favorable work environment.

Secondly, offering training is essential, particularly for young individuals entering the workforce straight out of school. CCI provides work readiness training to prepare employees for the job, guiding them on appropriate behavior in an office environment and helping them improve time management skills. Employees then undergo product-specific training, equipping them with the necessary skills to excel as call center agents. CCI also places emphasis on continuous development opportunities for its employees, ensuring they can grow and progress within the company.

Pearl Zikalala’s success story exemplifies the growth and development that can occur within the BPO industry. Starting as a contact center agent at CareerBox, an NPO founded by the CCI Group to train underprivileged candidates, Zikalala advanced to become a senior operations manager, responsible for hundreds of employees. She attributes her journey to the leadership training and mentoring provided by CCI.

Furthermore, exposing young employees to different areas of the business enhances their professional development and confidence. CCI has developed initiatives to upskill employees interested in specific fields. For instance, individuals with qualifications in other fields can be exposed to different aspects of the business where they can utilize and further develop their existing competencies. This emphasis on career growth is essential for fostering employee satisfaction and loyalty.

Lastly, providing coaching and support is crucial in an industry that often employs individuals facing significant personal and economic challenges. Andrew stresses the importance of nurturing and supporting employees, acknowledging that many are breadwinners coming from difficult backgrounds. Creating platforms for employees to voice their opinions, concerns, and suggestions fosters a sense of empowerment. Ntini affirms that career opportunities within the BPO industry are boundless, highlighting that three of CCI’s current board members began their careers as call center agents and now hold senior roles.

While the BPO industry is making strides in addressing youth unemployment, collaboration between the industry and the government is imperative to yield sustainable results. On National Youth Day and during Youth Month, it is crucial for both the public and private sectors to join forces in developing initiatives that equip young people with the competencies needed to meet modern market demands.

CCI, South Africa’s largest BPO company, plays a vital role in providing customer service to international clients. With a people-first approach, a focus on technology, and exceptional training, CCI has solidified its position as a leader in the industry. Serving clients from various sectors both locally and internationally, their primary goal is to deliver seamless and uninterrupted customer service experiences, thereby delighting their clients.

The BPO industry in South Africa has the potential to address the alarming rates of youth unemployment. By prioritizing the needs of young employees, offering comprehensive training, facilitating exposure to different aspects of the business, and providing coaching and support, the industry can not only attract young talent but also retain them, ultimately contributing to a brighter future for South Africa’s youth.

Read next: Three ways Artificial Intelligence will change the BPO landscape



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