Haiti Opens for Business: What Are the Prospects for a BPO Bloom?

Haiti is inviting international outsourcing firms to set up office in the Caracol Industrial Park being built in its northern province bordering the Dominican Republic

Avasant Partner Anupam Govil speaking at the event.

Haiti is open for BPO business. It’s official.

In many respects Haiti is the last significant Nearshore nation to come ‘online’, having developed at a different pace than most other countries of equivalent size in the region. The unique characteristics of Haiti will clearly become part of a differentiated offering the country will use to position itself – and those special features where among the crucial highlights brought out during a December industry launch event in Port-au-Prince, hosted by the Center for Investment Facilitation, Haiti’s investment attraction agency and consulting firm Avasant.

At the event, Avasant partner Anupam Govil said that outsourcing and related industries have the potential to generate as many as 13,000 jobs (5,000 direct and 8,000 indirect jobs jobs) in Haiti over the next five years. Among the most populous country in the Caribbean Community, Haiti is putting  emphasis on its tri-lingual capabilities, pushing the fact that there is talent in English, Spanish and French within the country. “There are unique strengths being developed here that are unlike any other Nearshore destination,” he pointed out.

Nearshore America’s Managing Director Kirk Laughlin, who also spoke at the event, stressed the need for internal industry collaboration, knowledge sharing and cultivation of the right kind of data, in order to build a formidable ecosystem that will endure for years to come. He pointed to examples in Guatemala City and Guadalajara where industry leaders have been particularly active in courting stakeholders from government, academia and the outsourcing community to consistently push the agenda of outsourcers.

It is clear that 2016 may turn out to be a decisive year for Haiti and its BPO future. While Cuba – to the Northwest of Haiti – has garnered lots of industry attention over the last year (including a steady supply of coverage in Nearshore Americas), it is an under-appreciated fact that Haiti outscores Cuba in virtually all the major categories that matter most to outsourcing service providers — namely quality of infrastructure (especially ICT facilities) and adherence to international labor law standards.

Haiti still has plenty of questions marks, and the most significant is probably the true scope of English-speaking talent. While the country continues to re-integrate natives who have been deported from the United States, official sources still struggle to put exact figures on the quality and quantity of English-speakers. Compared to other Caribbean locations, Haiti definitely shows up well in terms of available real estate. Its somewhat cosmopolitan night-life and food scene does continue to surprise a lot of visitors.

Also at the event, Avasant Foundation announced it was launching its BPO training program to ensure that BPO firms in Haiti do not run short of talent pool.

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Known as ‘Employment: Digital Youth’, the program was first launched in Jamaica, where more than 30 trained youths have already obtained jobs in the local call center industry. In Haiti, Avasant will train as many as 50 youths in call center service for every six months over the coming years.

“The Haitian government has identified outsourcing services as one of the priority sectors for socio-economic transformation. The availability of labor, multilingual skills, geographical position of the country and the competitive costs make Haiti an ideal place to launch BPO service,” said Avasant in a press release.

At the center of Hait’s BPO infrastructure is the Caracol Industrial Park being built in its northern province bordering the Dominican Republic. In the park, reports say, there will be space earmarked for knowledge service industries.

To begin with, Haiti is pursuing BPO firms in France, and French-speaking regions including Canada’s Quebec (the francophone province), Belgium and Switzerland. With abundant human resources and cost-effective labor cost, Haiti has all the potential to realize its goal.

According to the IDB, the industrial park has employed over 7,620 workers, and its goal is to reach 20,000 positions by 2020. Last week, the bank approved another chunk of $41 million grant for the fifth and last phase of the park.

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