Q: What makes the Caribbean an attractive region to the business process outsourcing [BPO] sector?
A: The Caribbean is at the centre of the changing trend in the nearshore market, where companies in the US are starting to move their operations closer to home. We have a skilled labour force, and fairly competitive wages compared to the North American market. We are also multilingual, as [our] talent has the potential to speak French, English, Spanish, Creole, Dutch and other languages. The Caribbean is well known for its tourism sector, and services is something that the Caribbean is proud of and culturally inclined to deliver.
Q: What are the main segments of the BPO sector in which the Caribbean Association of Investment Promotion Agencies [Caipa] would like to attract investment?
A: We have a wide strategy. We are looking at call centres, but also legal process outsourcing, human resources outsourcing, shared services, and finance and accounting outsourcing. We are looking at it from both a basic BPO and high-value-added outsourcing perspective.
Q: How is the Caribbean preparing for challenges within the BPO sector?
A: The key area of focus for us is the upcoming ‘Outsource to the Caribbean’ conference. One of the main presenters on the first day will be offering a pre-workshop training session about what is going on in the BPO sector, how it is evolving, and what the best entry points are for our smaller firms. Through our discussion sessions we hope to be able to act as a working group and lead these sessions with action plans and next steps for our association.
Q: How do smaller Caribbean countries with less well-developed BPO sectors compete with neighbouring countries that have more mature and developed BPO sectors?
A: Our operations will be small, but being small does not indicate a lack of effectiveness – quite the contrary. All the well-educated service-oriented people across the region will be able to provide exactly what the outsourcing market needs; agent and client retention, as well as a high level of customer service experience. I think that each of our countries has specific offerings, so rather than competing with each other, through Caipa we are highlighting that there are specific niches for each territory.
Q: What are the main opportunities and challenges for the BPO sector in Haiti?
A: The basics are there, including BPO activity and labour force. For example, Digicel, which has locations across the Caribbean and Latin America, has one of its main call centres in Haiti. Haitians naturally speak three languages; children learn both English and Spanish in school [in addition to French].
A lot of Haiti’s problems come as a result of a lack of job creation. With the current situation, which is not necessarily new and is unfortunately somewhat recurrent, people don’t necessarily look at Haiti as an investment destination, but this is true for other territories where investors do not think of BPO or knowledge process outsourcing, but rather the beaches, resorts and mountains. Through Caipa we have been trying to change the narrative for the Caribbean, not just as a tourist but also an investment destination that serves sectors such as BPO.
Q: Are there any risks to the Caribbean and the BPO sector?
A: A majority of [Caipa's] members will be affected by the UK’s decision to leave the EU, and this may affect the nature of the development support that English-speaking countries receive from the EU. We are aggressively engaging with BPO providers throughout Europe to consider the nearshore opportunity that the Caribbean offers, and we hope that BPO firms from the Netherlands will be present at our conference in May 2019.
Centre de Facilitation des Investissements en Haiti (CFI), general director
Roles at AmCham Haiti, Marriott Hotels, Emirates, Air Canada