A 400-page report, outlining the outsourcing readiness of 15 African nations, was released during the first Africa Outsourcing Summit, organised by Commonwealth Business Council (CBC) last month in London. The "Outsourcing in Africa: A Relative Ranking of 15 Country Locations" survey, compiled by India's Cybermedia, ranked Egypt (7.18 points) followed by Mauritius (7.08 points), South Africa (6.98 points), Tunisia (6.77 points) and Morocco (6.43 points), as the top African outsourcing destinations.
The report ranked Egypt highly at exposing its population to Information and Communication Technology (ICT). Other factors such as the business environment, political stability, availability of bandwidth and economic outlook also weighted the ranking. According to the report, "Egypt turns out as the most attractive location in Africa. Egypt will have strong competition from all the others in the infrastructure-ready band as all are working hard to improve."
The report noted that "Egypt has an edge because ICT is supported and believed in by the leadership and all actions are coordinated."
"Further, close coordination between different departments, especially the Information Technology Industry Development Agency [ITIDA] and General Authority for Investment and Free Zones [GAFI], makes a real single window service for any industry coming in to Egypt," the report elaborated.
An additional strength, the report noted, is the serious and coordinated efforts of the Government and other stakeholders to maintain a steady supply of well-trained human resources on a continuing basis. The report said the social and political stability in Egypt were among the main factors attracting leading international companies to invest in Egypt. The study further described the Egyptian government's strategy of raising ICT exports as being positive, especially that it takes into account global changes.
The report pointed out that Egypt's growth rate is high, adding that the country is currently focusing on outsourcing-related sectors like call centers, research and development, engineering designs and software development. The Egyptian strategy in this domain targets different markets like the Gulf and Europe. The report highlighted the professional development training programmes offered to university students as one of the pillars for boosting the Egyptian human capital operating in outsourcing. Egypt is targeting LE1.1 billion exports by 2010.
The piracy rate in Egypt dropped to about 60 per cent, one per cent less than the international one, which proves the country's keenness to attract multinational companies and its concern to protect intellectual property rights.
However, on the very same page, one can read a lengthy article about Steve Ballmer's trip to Egypt. It starts like this: "During his second visit to Egypt last week, Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's chief execituve officer, met Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif as well as Minister of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Tareq Kamel. Ballmer and the Egyptian officials discussed Microsoft's upcoming investments in Egypt and the company's wish to develop its partnership with the State in several fields: ICT, skills development, education, health, transport and e-government."
Hmmm... gee, I wonder, who is benefiting from the fantastic ICT positioning that Egypt has acquired for itself? Not for lack of interest in Java, by the way. (And all that was based on accidental meetings while on vacation here some months ago.) This may be the very first time I feel an inner wish that I was working for Microsoft, for no other reason than that it is CLEARLY taking Egypt seriously.