Cellphones cause call centre boom for banks in Africa

Interactive Intelligence
Interactive Intelligence

Dave Paulding, Interactive Intelligence’s regional sales director for UK, Middle East and Africa says that connected consumers in Africa are driving the demand for call centres in the banking industry.


The banking sector in Africa, particularly in Nigeria and Kenya, are implementing call centres for the first time.  It is interesting to consider why they are doing this now, when banks in South Africa and other parts of the world embraced the call centre revolution 10-15 years ago.

Nigeria and Kenya’s growing economies and relative stability provide part of the picture, but another important factor is that African consumers are more connected.  They are looking for new ways to contact their banks, rather than by visiting a branch.

The explosion in cellphone adoption in Africa has seen a rapid increase in contact centres for network operators.  Because of this, consumers are accustomed to connecting with their cellular service provider over the phone, and are calling for the same level of sophistication from other services like banks.

Because this is new territory for African banks, the relationship between the call centre vendor and the bank is critical. There is no historical data to work from, and it is difficult to plan and predict requirements.  The banks, therefore, require advice and guidance with putting together their strategies and creating a solid foundation for improved customer service.  Generally there is a rapid expansion once the call centre is up and running, with more agent seats required to service the level of customer enquiries.

While Africa has lagged in the deployment of call centres, there have been benefits.  From a technical point of view, many call centres are built from the ground up with the latest, cutting-edge technology.  African banks and cellphone operators do not have to deal with many of the legacy issues that companies in other countries have to face.

In addition, recent technological developments mean that call centres have a smaller hardware footprint and fewer moving parts.  This is particularly beneficial for businesses based in Africa.  Because there are fewer flights in and out of Africa, getting spare parts for hardware maintenance is a challenge.  If a contact centre experiences a fault, African companies may have to wait days to get a spare part, impacting on customer service.

However, given that call centres are less hardware-based these days, this is less of an issue for African-based businesses.  This means an increase in uptime, lower upfront costs and lower maintenance fees.

From a vendor point of view, the potential in Africa is great.  In the rest of the world, there are very few greenfield opportunities for call centres.  There is the legacy replacement market, or the opportunity to plug a weak point, e.g. workforce management, in an existing contact centre.  In Africa, there is the potential to start from scratch and share knowledge on how to run an efficient call centre.

So while African companies may have lagged behind the rest of the world in uptake, they can benefit from the rest of the world’s years of experience and leapfrog many of the development stages that businesses in other countries went through.

While most call centres in Africa currently focus on voice, as consumers become more tech-savvy, there will be a move towards converting call centres into multimedia contact centres.  Given that most African businesses use the latest technology, the switch from a call centre to a contact centre will be fast, seamless and cost effective.  Africa wins again.

About Interactive Intelligence
Interactive Intelligence Inc. (Nasdaq: ININ) is a global provider of unified business communications solutions for contact centre automation, enterprise IP telephony, and enterprise messaging. The company was founded in 1994 and has more than 3,000 customers worldwide. Interactive Intelligence is among Software Magazine’s top 500 global software and services suppliers, is ranked among NetworkWorld’s top 200 North American networking vendors, is a BusinessWeek “hot growth 50” company, and is among FORTUNE Small Business magazine’s top 100 fastest growing companies. The company is also positioned in the leaders quadrant of the Gartner 2008 Contact Center Infrastructure, Worldwide Magic Quadrant report. Interactive Intelligence employs approximately 600 people and is headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana. It has six global corporate offices with additional sales offices throughout North America, Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific. Interactive Intelligence can be reached at +1 317.872.3000 or [email protected]; on the Net: http://www.inin.com

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Oluniyi D. Ajao
Oluniyi D. Ajao is an Internet Entrepreneur and Tech Enthusiast based in South Africa. Follow him on twitter @niyyie for more tech updates.


  1. what i would really like to see is a good online banking system that serves Africa well. the ‘dark’ continent has been left out of the internet boom for long enough. we are getting there. in you face paypal

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