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August 14, 2007

Egypt Attempts to Become a Player in the Call Center Industry

By Brian Solomon, TMCnet Web Editor

Egypt is looking to make a dent in the international call center market, touting the advantages it holds over call center giant India. There has also been an attempt to convince India to outsource some its already outsourced labor to Egypt as well.
Among the advantages boasted by Egypt are a multilingual workforce, a common time zone with Europe and greater proximity to the United States. Another advantage is superior roads, which allow staff to reach the call centers much easier than in India. The government of Egypt has also established what it calls a “Smart Village” out in the desert. This gated compound is equipped with state of the art technology, and currently houses such industry leaders as Microsoft (News - Alert).
In hopes of boosting the national economy, Egypt’s leaders are currently working to get major IT players to set up shop in their country. In 2004, they set up the Information Technology Industry Development Agency (ITIDA) for this express purpose.
“This sector will lead to a renaissance in Egypt,” said ITIDA CEO Mohammad Omran. “We cannot compete with India, we don’t want to compete with India. We want to cooperate with India.”
To that end, Egypt’s Prime Minister Ahmad Nazrif is appealing to India to relieve some of its pressures by leaning on his country and its own call center workforce. India currently accounts for 60 percent of the overall offshore market, and is struggling to maintain adequate staffing. So far, several agreements have been signed between the two nations, and two of India’s main companies, Wipro and Satyam, have already agreed to set up call centers in Egypt.
Nevertheless, some have argued that Egypt is destined to be nothing more than a small player in the international call center industry, with a skilled workforce that actually only amounts to a very small percentage of the overall population. They also point to the low literacy level, widespread poverty and large rural population as problematic.
Egypt’s telecommunications infrastructure consists of links to satellite earth stations for the Intelstat, Inmarstat and Arabsat systems, in addition to submarine cables leading from South Asia to Western Europe, as well as from Europe to Japan, Australia and other East Asian countries. In an effort to improve Egypt’s international connectivity, the country’s two major carriers, Telecom Egypt and FLAG Telecom, joined forces recently to create a new underwater cable system linking Europe, Asia and the United States.
Brian Solomon is a Web Editor for TMCnet, covering news in the IP communications, call center and customer relationship management industries. To see more of his articles, please visit Brian Solomon’s columnist page

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