Patel unveils strategy charting the course for SA's Global Business Services

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel on Tuesday unveiled a forward-looking strategy charting the course for South Africa's Global Business Services (GBS) sector.

Patel made the announcement during his opening address at the annual BPESA [Business Process Enabling South Africa] GBS | BPO Conference, which took place in Cape Town.

Patel highlighted the sector's pivotal role in job creation and economic expansion, emphasising the vital partnerships between government, private sector and employees.

He noted the GBS sector's achievements, citing its contributions to job growth, geographic expansion and its impact on the national economy.

Government has invested more than R3 billion since 2016 in the sector, which currently employs more than 31 000 employees in firms receiving national government support, earning significant sums of foreign exchange to the country. The industry has a Sector Masterplan that drives its growth and development.

Patel outlined the next phase of the GBS sector, focusing on expanding operations across provinces and towns, with a strong emphasis on high-value services in services in Information Technology, finance, health, legal and retail.

The sector will need to address the challenges of artificial intelligence in consumer servicing markets. Underlining the importance of language and technical skills, he stressed the need to tap into South Africa's diverse talent pool and the country's robust customer service culture.

He noted a number of strengths in the local economy that international investors pointed to as reasons for choosing SA as a destination for their GBS-centres.

South Africa now services markets in the United Kingdom, United States of America, Canada, Australia, China, Mauritius, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and France.

The sector was youth-focused, with 90% of employees being young people, and six out of ten employees being women.

“The face of the industry is female and young people, which fits in well with our national priorities,” Patel said.

Addressing the crucial issue of ethical sourcing, Patel acknowledged consumers' growing awareness of social and environmental conditions.

He emphasised the industry's commitment to ethical practices and called for improved social impact and strengthened labour relations and decent working conditions, in line with the principles enshrined in the South African constitution.

"Ethical sourcing presents both a market challenge and a tremendous opportunity. As consumers demand transparency in production conditions, we must showcase our strengths while enhancing their impact in local operations," Patel said.

With a government allocation of R569 million to the GBS sector this financial year, these initiatives mark a significant stride toward ensuring the sector's resilience, competitiveness and positive impact on both the national economy and the workforce. –