As corporate South Africa digests the impact of the new B-BBEE codes which come into play on 1 April 2015, a new debate is emerging. This is one of transformation versus job creation and is by no means an easy challenge to resolve. This is the view of Zain Patel, Operations Director at Merchants. Southern Africa’s largest business process outsourcing (BPO) and customer experience specialist.
Under the new codes, it will be more difficult for organisations to improve their ratings without taking the necessary steps towards transformation. In addition to that, according to the new mandate, wherever a government incentive is paid out, it will now become a requirement that the codes are taken into account. This will have a significant impact on the offshore industry as an organisation’s B-BBEE rating will have a direct impact on whether their clients qualify for the incentives.
The need for transformation and job creation in South Africa is a reality that cannot be ignored. “As Merchants, the approach we have chosen to take is that of transformation,” says Patel. “While we acknowledge that some people will be negatively affected by the required transformation, we do believe job creation will follow.”
“Transformation is not just about process, but more so about the people affected by it,” he says. “It’s about driving change that has a positive long term and sustainable impact on lives, creating opportunities for more individuals to become economically active.”
Patel believes this is an extremely complex issue that cuts across industries and which might be easier for some organisations to overcome than others. “As an established business in South Africa, we have a strong foundation in building an environment that allows people to grow through the ranks with our reputable skills development programmes. Through these programmes we are continuously fast-tracking the development of individuals to move them into leadership positions.”
Merchants has also successfully partnered with Harambee, an organisation which sources, trains and places unemployed young people from disadvantaged backgrounds into first-time jobs. This partnership allows young people to acquire the skills they need to enter the workplace, while growing the local talent pool for the industry. “This goes a long way in bridging the gap between our unemployed youth and the needs of our organisation. If more organisations took this route we would see tremendous improvement in our country’s unemployment statistics and it is a responsibility that should be shared among corporates in South Africa.”
According to Patel, those hardest hit will be the big international outsourcers, which is a challenge as the increase in outsource providers in the country has had a positive effect. “The increase in the number of outsource service providers not only lends more credibility to South Africa as an offshore destination of choice, but also increases the number of people marketing the country to potential investors and provides choice to those customers already considering South Africa,” he says. “All of these are great for job creation and developing a healthy, sustainable BPO sector. This is critical in enabling the industry to have a long term impact on the country’s economy and drive down unemployment.”
“While we may not have all the answers just yet, we cannot afford to pitch transformation against job creation. We know that transformation is necessary, therefore it is up to the industry as a whole to find that middle ground that allows us to transform while still creating much needed jobs for the country,” Patel concludes.