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French Version

Embryonic Call Center Market in Algeria

The concept of call centers is new to the Algerian market and businesses are likely to adopt them only in the long term as a few "pioneers" are introducing them today. For now, the focus thus far has been on providing solution and services to the few telecom operators active in Algeria, starting with Orascom Algerie, which hired Nortel, Algerie Telecom which is currently working with France Telecom's Sofrecom, and Wataniya which has yet to hire a solution provider for its own call center.

The first one to be operational is owned and operated by the state telecom company Algerie Telecom (AT). AT has always used the number 19 to allow customers to reach its operators. However that center is slated to be upgraded and modernized as AT acquired the Gaïa suite of software from Sofrecom, a subsidiary of France Telecom.

According to Sofrecom, the partnership between AT and Sofrecom started in 2001 with the telecommunication computerization project relative to the supply and implementation of Gaïa software suite for the network's operator commercial, financial and technical management and was pursued by technical assistance for commercial relaunch of Mobilis, Algérie Telecom mobile subsidiary. The partnership has recently been strengthened by a contract for the design and implementation of Algérie Telecom commercial strategy for its wireline network. Sofrecom won the bid launched by the Algerian Ministry of Post and Information & Communications Technologies (MPTIC) and financed by the World Bank when it competed for that project against companies like Cap Gemini and Arthur D. Little
The project, which started last month (June 2004) will be delivered in July 2005. Sofrecom, the lead implementer, will also use third-party specialists and system integrators Créargie, Idate and Khan Consultants. It will be responsible for the definition and implementation of the operator's strategy in the areas of marketing, with the goal of providing new prices and services, sales reorganization aimed at restructuring AT's sales branches known as the Actel network, and customer relationship in an effort to development a new and more comprehensive customer relationship policy, along with a new call center to efficiently deliver information to customers.

With the increase in telecommunications-related activity in the country, there has been also growing interest in the call center business to improve customer relations. The second mobile phone operator Wataniya, which is currently building up its network and subscriber base, is now being courted by call center solution providers to establish such a center. The same companies that failed to do business with the other phone operator Orascom when it established is 777 customer line, are now trying to sell their solutions to Wataniya. To recall, Orascom ended up selecting the Canadian Nortel Networks.

But at the moment the Algerian market is far from being an attractive one for independent call center operators. This is because only solution providers are willing to supply systems and solutions to the very few telecom operators. The market is not yet ready to offer a viable business opportunity for independent call centers that would work as third-party service providers to local companies and international firms operating in or out of Algeria. This is indeed in sharp contrast than what is practiced in neighboring Morocco and Tunisia. French call centers relocated their services out of France and to these countries as the cost of operating there and the business environment proper have been great incentives for their decision to move there. Some analysts estimate that the cost of operating a call center in countries like Morocco and Tunisia are 40% to 50% below the cost of operating a similar center in France. This is largely because a call center in France with 100 operators costs an average of €300,000 per month and with lower labor cost, this figure is halved in North Africa. Because of such major cost saving, companies like France's Teleperformance, which moved its call centers to Tunisia from which it services French banks and cable operators, are increasingly looking at the changes in the business environment in the host countries to further reduce their costs. In Morocco, there are some 40 call centers working on the French market, representing about 4,000 jobs. Morocco is home of 70% of the French call centers that have moved abroad, but other countries are being eyed because of their much lower costs. That includes Senegal. In the case of Algeria, the likelihood for this market to development remains limited. But as the domestic market grows and the mass market develops, the need for call centers will materialize

Beirut,11 08 2004
The Daily Star
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