South-South Learning Visit to India
Lessons on Skills Development to Foster an IT/ITES Industry in Africa
NASSCOM hosts eight African country delegations on a two-week learning visit to India with support from the World Bank
BANGALORE, 20 February 2009-- A 54-person high-level African delegation comprising senior government officials, entrepreneurs and educators from eight countries have concluded a World Bank-organized 14-day study visit to Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bangalore to learn about India's information technology (IT) and business process outsourcing (BPO) industries. This visit is part of a wider World Bank initiative, the New Economy Skills for Africa Programme (NESAP), to assist African countries in building skills for economic growth and competitiveness.
"This visit to India provided us with a mirror to assess our own work back home and fill in the gaps," said Simon Karanja of Kenya's Ministry of Education. “The value of this tour has been in exposing us to an entirely new area. It forces us to think -- where do we go next after we have worked on infrastructure and connectivity?” added Raymond Akule, president of Nigeria‘s Digital Bridge Institute.
Over the course of two weeks, delegates from Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal and Tanzania saw first hand how India has developed the skills, infrastructure and investment policies necessary for the growth of a vibrant IT-BPO industry.
“IT-BPO is a global phenomenon that will be sustained, and which will only grow over time. This is a huge opportunity that should not be missed,” proclaimed Randeep Sudan, Lead ICT Specialist with the World Bank’s Global ICT Department.
IT-BPO is a nascent industry in Africa, and offers exciting potential for growth and job creation on the continent. However, a lack of relevant skills and talent is commonly cited as a barrier to the development of IT-BPO firms in Africa.
Emmanuel Runyoro of Tanzania's Ministry of Communications, Science and Technology said that the Indian experience demonstrates "how the IT and ITES industry can be a great way to participate in the global economy and create jobs if the right skills are nurtured".
Visits to the Reliance BPO facilities in Mumbai, the Indian School of Business (ISB) and the Indian Institute of Information Technology (IIIT) in Hyderabad, and the Infosys headquarters in Bangalore, as well as presentations from BPO training institutions such as Winzest and Hero Mindmine, reinforced the message that formal education alone does not ensure employability.
Yaw Ansu, Director of the Human Development Department in the Africa Region of the World Bank, noted that India’s leadership and experience in IT-BPO provides a rich repository of policy and practical lessons for African policymakers to help guide efforts to grow IT-related services industries in their countries.
After attending last week's NASSCOM India Leadership Forum in Mumbai, Jerome Gassana from Rwanda's ICT Training and Research Centre expressed how he and his colleagues were "inspired to build a NASSCOM-like organization for East Africa".
ICT-related skills development and training were key focus areas during the two-week visit.
"We learnt about the certification process for IT-BPO skills from Indian counterparts and we are excited about forging a partnership with India to do the same in our country," stated Nana Osei Bansu of Ghana's Ministry of Communication.
As the visit drew to a close, Ms. Jee-Peng Tan, World Bank Education Advisor for Africa, took note of the close cooperation and interaction between industry and training providers in identifying skills gaps and designing programs to fill these gaps. "India's experience contains ample lessons for Africa on how to grow and upgrade a country's talent pool to support an increasingly sophisticated IT-BPO industry", she added.
Acknowledging the link between IT-BPO success and and education, Americo Muchanga of Eduardo Mondlane University, the top science and engineering institution in Mozambique, observed that "the key to India's success has been a heavy investment in education".
Exposure to the 'Hyderabad story' was particularly inspiring for African participants, because starting from a poor, largely agricultural base -- a situation similar to many African countries today -- the state catapulted itself to become a global IT-BPO destination within a decade.
The extent of government support enjoyed by the Indian IT-BPO industry through infrastructure development and training programs also impressed participants. According to Papa Gueye of Senegal's Ministry of Secondary and Higher Education, "the tremendous support that the Indian government has provided to the IT sector's growth has been an inspiring lesson for us".
In Bangalore, participants wrapped up their visit to India by vowing to share lessons and India’s story with policymakers and industry leaders back in their countries so as to take forward concrete strategies for IT and ITES in their countries.
Mr. Yaw Ansu underscored the World Bank’s commitment to supporting countries in their effort to refine their plans for developing IT-related skills and industries and to explore options for successful implementation of such plans in their countries.
Later this year, the World Bank plans to organize a follow-up workshop in Africa to facilitate the continued sharing of international experiences and to take stock of progress made as a result of the study visit to India.
The learning visit to India was made possible through the financial support from the governments of Norway, South Korea, China, Denmark, India, Mexico, the Netherlands, Spain and the U.K., in conjunction with the World Bank.