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French Version

French fret as telecom jobs outsourced to francophone countries

Call centers spring up in North Africa - but not in Lebanon

The growing trend of delocalization - moving business from high-wage markets countries into North African countries - has sparked a heated debate in France. The French CGT union has raised concern about the number of French companies moving out and settling down their call center operations in the Magreb or French-speaking African countries.

According to Datamonitor, an independent market analyst firm, the number of outsourced nearshore agent positions in Central and Eastern Europe and North Africa will rise from 4,400 in 2003 to 13,700 by 2008. The firm said that Morocco and Tunisia will remain focused on French customer care. However, Morocco is likely to diversify into Spanish- and English-speaking services.

Lebanon has lagged in opening outsourcing companies, even though it has a young, educated, multilingual and relatively inexpensive pool of labor. The only reason why Lebanon's private sector hasn't been able to tap into the multi-billion dollar market is due to the extremely uncompetitive telecom prices set by the telecommunications monopoly, which is held by the Lebanese government.

In India, for example, which is the world's largest outsourcing nation, an international call to the U.S. costs just 1.8 cents per minute. The same call from Lebanon is 73 cents per minute. That rate - posted on the Web site of Ogero, Lebanon's state-owned phone company - also applies to calls to France, Belgium, Canada or the U.K.

French-speaking consumers are currently served by call centers located in North African countries like Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco - even as far away as Mauritius and the French Antilles. These countries are now serving 4,500 firms based in France. Lebanon serves none.

Beirut,10 11 2004
The Daily Star
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