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Africa a call center alternative to India?

Some US lawmakers and think tanks believe that Africa can be a much cheaper alternative to call centers in India. The issue came up briefly for discussion during a Congressional hearing on US-Africa Trade relations.

business Updated: Jun 27, 2009 13:51 IST

Some US lawmakers and think tanks believe that Africa can be a much cheaper alternative to call centers in India.

The issue came up briefly for discussion during a Congressional hearing on US-Africa Trade relations.

"Is there any possibility of having call centers in Africa, in your opinion?" asked Congressman Donald Payne, at the joint hearing convened by Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

"I don't know whether that has been explored," said Karen Tandy, senior vice president, public affairs and communications, Motorola.

"However, it makes sense that it is certainly possible in Africa," she said.

"There are a tremendous number of entrepreneurs springing up throughout the continent that we are also investing and giving grant money to and technology, so there is no reason why a call center couldn't be part of the future in Africa," Tandy said.

"I would echo that," observed Greg Lebedev, adviser to the president US Chamber of Commerce and Chairman, Center for International Private Enterprise. Africa has a wonder resource of English language speakers, he added.

"Certainly, there is some market maturation in India right now and one could argue there might be cost-competitive advantages in Africa. So I think that, to your point and to Tandy's point, that's a sensible area in which to look," Lebedev said.

Tandy and Lebedev were responding to a question posed by Congressman Payne. "Are there any possibilities for that kind of -- even, why not have a call center in Ghana, where they speak English, or Kenya?" he asked.

"You can probably less detect it than the Indians saying I'm Sam, you know, with this "I am Sam." But then I live down the street, so to speak," Payne said.