Egypt: a country for opportunities and positive impact

In the 2000s I was helping run a market research agency and we hit on the idea of outsourcing some survey work to a company in Egypt. Not only was it successful, but it also taught me much about a country I had known little.

Fast forward a decade or so and Egypt is now technologically driven, a highly competitive country, with people who have great warmth and a customer service attitude that is hard to beat.

The time is right

The time is right for UK companies, with an interest in outsourcing, to look at Egypt.

With Cairo having a two-hour time difference from the UK, business between the countries is easy. And, importantly, with Brexit well underway there is also a fresh emphasis on trade being done outside the European Union.

The UK-Egypt Trade Deal was signed last December, and with the established links between our two countries, through tourism and history, and the fact that English is very widely spoken in Egypt the time is ripe to capitalise on relations. And UK businesses that are serving an EU market also benefit from all EU languages being widely spoken in the country.

Major player

Wanting to learn more about how the country has developed and its relationship with the United Kingdom, particularly in regard to Business Process Outsourcing (BPO), my starting point was to read Peter Ryan’s excellent white paper: Egypt’s role in the Evolution of BPO.

It’s Peter Ryan’s research which also proves the prominence of Egypt as a preferred supplier of BPO services. His annual Ryan Strategic Advisory Front Office BPO Omnibus Survey, of hundreds of enterprise contact centre decision-makers, shows them placing Egypt at fourth across the world as a popular BPO provider country, a position it holds on a regular basis.

What is clear is that with government support, companies in Egypt have grown their activity so that they account for delivering 17% of the BPO market worldwide. Over the last decade, as Ryan states, Egypt: “is now considered one of the fastest-growing offshore destinations in the world. The country has evolved into a high-value services hub and supports hundreds of international organizations.”

The conclusion is confirmed by Everest Group research, which shows Egypt having a significant share of Global Services and Provider Centres.

This is reflected with international BPO companies such as Teleperformance, Concentrix, Sutherland Global Services, Sykes, and iSON Xperiences all having a presence. Then there are home-grown BPOs like Xceed and smaller providers too.

It is therefore not surprising that more and more international corporates are sourcing from Egypt. As NelsonHall, the leading global analyst firm, points out: “The country hosts development and shared services centers from Microsoft, IBM, Vodafone, Orange, Dell, HSBC, Uber, Oracle, and Nestlé, among others. In 2019, Amazon, Etisalat, and PepsiCo also entered the market with their own BPS centers.”

Key ingredients

The Egyptian Government have an agenda around building international partnerships for sustainable development, what their Minister of International Development, Rania A. Al-Mashat, describes as: “a continuous journey of designing and implementing reforms to open future opportunities for people and projects with purpose.” She talks about it here, and some of the economic consequences of opening the economy up are shown here.

So, it is not difficult to establish why the sector has prospered. The Information Technology Industry Development Agency (ITIDA) has invested heavily, making the country one of the most connected in the world – see this excellent video from Oxford Business Group which explains more here.

This is all underpinned by Egypt’s Information Communication Technology (ICT) 2030 Strategy and Action Plan which sees internet connectivity expanded dramatically. Besides supporting contact centres, it has also helped the dramatic shift to homeworking which we saw because of the pandemic. The ICT Minister Amr Talaat explains the strategy and talked about the project of building Digital Egypt here

Indeed, Egypt faired far better than many other countries during the COVID crisis, not least because the reforms it had already put in place, as the Minister of International Cooperation explains here.

Staying with this, companies like Xceed didn’t miss a beat during the pandemic. With over 18,000 employees they quickly moved 8,000 to becoming remote agents, and utilised hotels, empty because of the closedown of tourism, to create work bubbles for teams to continue delivering for their clients. Learn more in this NelsonHall blog here.

It doesn’t stop there. Egypt’s Future Work is Digital (FWD) programme is a virtual academy which enhances young people and practitioners technological and remote working skills as well as giving them essential tools to successfully lead the future of work. It could not be more appropriate for the BPO sector in the current circumstances.

And all this ties in with the talent pool. Over half a million graduates coming out of the 70 universities and 100 higher education institutes each year, and a fifth of these with English qualifications, though the language is spoken much more widely. All the main European languages are well catered for and there is an extensive education programme now dedicated to teaching Chinese.

Added to this is Egypt’s commitment to data protection, legislating to create the Personal Data Protection Law (PDPL) last year, similar to the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). To illustrate a point, companies like Xceed go much further, complying with a whole range of standards, including: Customer Operations Performance Center (COPC) certification; Payment Card Industry (PCI) Security Standard Council Compliant; ISO/IEC 27001:2013 Information Security Management Systems; ISO 22301:2012 Business Continuity Management Systems; ISO 9001:2008 Quality Management Systems; OHS 18001:2007 Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems; and ISO 14001:2004 Environmental Management Systems.

The country is also very price competitive with salary levels similar to the other big BPO provider India. This makes outsourcing to Egypt even more attractive. But it’s not all about the money, or even high quality of service. Impact sourcing comes to the fore in Egypt, UK providers commissioning from here can add to building social capital in the country.

Positive impact

UK companies outsourcing to Egypt are contributing to developing the careers of graduates, improving further on the talent that is already there, and making a positive impact on the economy. This can help meet Corporate Social Responsibility targets and have a practical social impact.

Companies like Xceed are at the forefront of developing impact sourcing in Egypt – they were named a ‘company to watch’ in last year’s Global Impact Sourcing Awards, a prestigious honour organised by the International Association of Outsourcing Professionals (IAOP) and the Rockefeller Foundation.

Xceed intentionally hire and provide career development opportunities to people who would otherwise have limited prospects. It is done through their Xceed Academy which provides a range of courses to help new starters, through to more experienced personnel, move through the different stages of their career.

This type of recruitment and training helps transform the participant’s lives, while also benefiting Xceed, their customers, and the wider communities where the personnel live. It’s resulted in Xceed being listed in the IAOP’s Impact Sourcing Champions Index.

The world has moved on a lot since I first started outsourcing services to Egypt in the late 2000s. What is undoubtedly clear now is that the time is right for UK companies to commission even more BPO services from Egypt.

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