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Uganda: the hidden potential

May 26, 2011

To become a medical doctor or a lawyer you need training, internship and finally you get a license or certification to practice. But hat happens to the business solutions providers, where do they register to be recognised?

In Uganda, there is a group of people who conduct their work on laptops in hotels. These people network and do not necessarily sit in an office. There is no professional body regulating them, but they rely on doing the job well and depend on referrals to get more business.  This new breed of self-employed workers looked for jobs, and got tired of pacing the corridors of offices with applications, and thus resorted to using IT to create and generate for themselves work. These are part of the new generation of workers who work as outsourcing consultants in Kampala. They serve a relatively small market which needs quick services.

Financial attractiveness, people skills and availability, and business environment are the three broad essential criteria used by Western companies to decide their outsourcing destinations.  Uganda is currently addressing people skills and ignoring its twin – availability of supporting infrastructure. Leave alone the business environment, a factor that has been interrupted by the recently high prices.

Government has noted that there is a lot of trained youth and recent graduates with no jobs. It has now partnered with Makerere University Faculty of ICT to provide the first set of Business Process Outsourcing workers. This has created some hope to the unemployed. There is hope to change the job seeking mentality to become job creators. But this hope may be dashed if the infrastructure and business environment factors are not addressed concurrently.

The glaring question to show dedication from government to meet the outsourcing issue remains “How much has government dedicated to the infrastructure development in the next budget to be read in June 2011?” If this is answered in the budget speech, together with commitment, Uganda will have gotten closer to making this BPO exercise a self-sustaining venture.

Once that has been addressed, then government will be confident to let the trainees generate their own jobs. Like one preacher said “If you aren’t making any mistakes, you aren’t innovating. If you’re making the same mistakes, you aren’t learning.”  Government in its effort to innovate must be careful not to make the same mistakes, by avoiding the pitfalls. That way they will have shown that learning has taken place to the new generation of BPO trainees.

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3 Comments
  1. I agree with what you are saying that GOU must be serious about the infrastructure. This BPO thing has been talked about since 2008 and I have always suspected that it is going to turn out to be a white elephant just like the one before it, the Software Incubator!

    Let us watch and see how far it goes.

  2. Violet permalink

    I like the article especially when you mention about IT and this is where Grow Movement comes in to take the advantage of Technology development to link up to MSMEs in Africa to professionals all over the world to help them overcome their challenges and equip them with basic skills to develop their businesses . http://www.growmovement.org

    Absolutely True, infrastructure in Uganda is too poor though it has been always given some percentage in the budget but i think the most fundamental issue the Government has to fight is corruption because however much the Government allocates resources with the current level of corruption i am afraid we shall never get anywhere with infrastructure development……look at the roads for example they are full of potholes! Don’t you think the Government allocates resources here? I agree with you but there is a fundamental issue that has never been solved and to the biggest extent affects the infrastructure development in the country…….!

  3. Ronald, the team at MUK and MoICT are not looking far enough. With very little done in the infrastructure like energy and bandwidth, the future is left with fewer prospects. Skills are there, but the support structures are lacking.
    Violet with the corruption levels, then the infrastructure improvement will also not see the light of the day.
    So private sector has to come in and use the available yet expensive services of satellite.

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