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The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated technological advances and the automation of many routine tasks – from contactless cashiers to robots delivering packages. In this environment, many are concerned that artificial intelligence (AI) will drive significant automation and destroy jobs in the coming decades.

Just a few decades ago, the internet created similar concerns as it grew. Despite skepticism, the technology created millions of jobs and now comprises 10% of US GDP. Today, AI is poised to create even greater growth in the US and global economies. Sixty-three percent of CEOs believe AI will have a larger impact than the internet, according to PwC’s Annual Global CEO Survey.

While Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies driven by AI will continue to fundamentally change the world and the way we work and live, AI may not lead to massive unemployment. Instead, AI technology will create more jobs than it automates.

These newly created jobs will require new skills and necessitate significant investment in upskilling and reskilling young people and adults. But businesses and governments can – and must – work together to address this transition and embrace the positive societal benefits of AI.

Article Source - World Economic Forum

Click here to view the report

Driving Recovery in South Africa’s BPO Industry - Two powerful webinars were hosted by BPESA in September 2020 featuring Meleza Growth Accelerator – an initiative borne from McKinsey & Company’s social responsibility commitment.
Download the presentations and audio from the sessions. You can also read the support article which looks at the potential and opportunity for the BPO sector to create jobs in South Africa and move beyond the crisis.

Article: https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/middle-east-and-africa/driving-economic-recovery-in-south-africas-bpo-industry?cid=soc-app

Webinar - Session 1 - Growth and competitiveness of the South African BPO sector
Growth and competitiveness of SA BPO sector PDF
Growth and competitiveness of SA BPO sector Audio

Webinar - Session 2 – Operating Model for BPO players in the post-COVID world
Operating Model for BPO players in the post-COVID world PDF
Operating Model for BPO players in the post-COVID world Audio

The South African Global Business Services (GBS) sector continues to buck the trend; not only has it pioneered best practice in 'keeping the lights on', but it is a sector that has arguably thrived in a global economic lockdown.

In South Africa, GBS extends across multiple sectors including finance and accounting, telecommunications and media, human resources and even legal services. As a result of innovative technology that is the backbone of the sector, operations were able to pivot to agile working arrangements including work from home, scaled down on-site operations and/or blended working models. This ability to maintain operations, keep workers employed and service a global market was strongly endorsed by Minister Patel of Trade, Industry and Competition as a blueprint for business in all stages of the highly regulated lockdown.

Fresh from raking in $250 million (R4 billion) worth of investments during the past financial year, South Africa’s business process outsourcing (BPO) market continues to thrive during the COVID-19 lockdown.

The industry is looking to hire as many as half a million employees in the next 10 years, if market conditions permit.

So says Andy Searle, CEO of non-profit organisation Business Process Enabling South Africa (BPESA), in an e-mail interview with ITWeb.

In a boost to the local BPO sector, US-based tech giant Amazon last month announced it is recruiting in SA to fill 3 000 new virtual job vacancies in customer service this year.

The interview with Searle followed BPESA joining 11 other independent regional organisations serving the BPO sector, also known as the global business services (GBS) sector, to create the Global Technology and Business Services Council.

The council comprises the leading GBS locations servicing over 10 000 organisations, including multi-nationals, indigenous tech companies, SMEs and start-ups.

How can South Africa embrace the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) to rekindle economic growth and transformation, revitalise skills, and create high-quality jobs in large numbers?1 And how can the country mitigate the risk that the 4IR will lead to job losses – given that unemployment today stands at 29 percent, its highest level in a decade?

These questions have been top of mind for leaders from across the public, private, labour and education sectors – and are the focus of the Commission on the Fourth Industrial Revolution appointed by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

An Industry in the Spotlight

The Call Centre Industry in South Africa has been recognised globally for its ability to function as an essential service from the onset of Level 5 of the lock down, ensuring that critical services continued to be delivered with minimal disruption to private and public sector clients locally and internationally.

This recognition of government support and collaboration with business is raising our profile in global markets and is steadily translating into new business opportunities for South Africa, the most recent being the publicly announced commitment by Amazon to increase its workforce by 3,000 people, all in work from home roles – something for which we have only proven our capabilities during lock down. This is all due to the collaboration of industry players and the support of the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition and the Department of Health.

"This special adjustments budget sets out government’s initial economic and fiscal response to COVID-19. It fast-tracks normal processes to provide resources to frontline services, provincial and local government, and firms and households, with a focus on the most vulnerable South Africans. It also underlines our commitment to stabilise the public finances and enact reforms that will promote trade, investment and job creation.

The oft-overused word “unprecedented” is appropriate in this case. The pandemic is expected to lead to the sharpest global economic downturn since the Second World War and the biggest overall decline in countries’ per capita incomes in 150 years. In 2020, the output of developing economies is expected to contract for the first time in at least 60 years.

Amazon just announced 3,000 open jobs in SA, and you only need matric – here’s how to apply

Amazon has announced that it will be hiring for 3,000 new customer-service jobs in South Africa. The jobs are work-from-home, come with benefits, and applications open today.

“We are thrilled with the talent in South Africa and we are excited… to help keep people working during this unprecedented time,” said the company in a statement.

Amazon is calling the positions “virtual jobs” as you don’t need to be in an office, and can work from home. You do need your own, dedicated internet connection, but the company will help pay for that.

Dear Call Centre Operators,

With regards to weekly reporting of your call centre/s. Please note that on the 11th June Minister Patel of the Department of Trade Industry and Competition (dtic) withdrew the Level 5 and 4 Disaster Management Act (57/2002): Directions regarding call centres providing Essential / Permitted Services, Gazette no. 43224 as well as Sector Directive where any organisation currently offering an Essential / Permitted Service through a call centre – addressing either international or domestic needs. These Directions were replaced with Government Gazette - No. 10177 / Regulations Regulation No. 43432 which as per below allows for the Global Business Service (GBS) Sector including call centres to continue operations subject to;

It would be convenient to believe that the South African Global Business Services (GBS) sector is streaking across the global outsourcing landscape as the new darling for offshore locations.

By Andy Searle, CEO of BPESA

This is not surprising as, last month, South Africa placed as the second most preferred offshore customer experience location globally (Ryan Strategic Advisory); another trophy for our cabinet.

This, however, would be to ignore the slow and steady efforts of the Industry, the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (dtic) and BPESA (the industry body) over the past years to advance and promote South Africa’s competitive advantage as an offshore location in the global outsourcing market.

For the third year in a row, South Africa has been named the second most favoured offshore location for contact centre delivery, globally.

India came in first and the Philippines third in the annual 2020 Front Office Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) Omnibus Survey conducted by global firm Ryan Strategic Advisory. The survey assesses 540 senior decision-makers representing 42 countries spread across multiple sectors.

In South Africa, the sector employs an astonishing 260 000 young people, of which 65 000 service international clients in Europe, the UK, US, Asia, Africa and Australia. Last year it recorded 34% employment growth, generating 15 086 new jobs, 13 102 of which went to youth aged 18 to 35 and 1 353 of which were inclusively hired through an impact sourcing approach.

The journey we have travelled

Today marks the end of the 9th week of lock down since the state of disaster was declared by President Cyril Ramaphosa, and it heralds a new stage in this journey as the country moves to Risk Level 3 in our risk adjusted approach to opening up the economy. Level 3 allows all call centre activity to take place, which is great news to those companies that focus primarily on non-essential services and to the debt collections subsegment.

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