Merchants goes local with first township based call centre
A state-of-the-art contact centre officially launched in the Jabulani precinct in Soweto earlier this month – as a first step in Merchants’ Sisekhaya project. The launch is the result of a public-private partnership and year-long collaboration between Merchants, AMANDLA Social Enterprises, the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) and the Gauteng Department of Economic Development (GDED).
Addressing Local Challenges
The new Jabulani contact centre is a direct response to a long-standing challenge in the area: a lack of sustainable employment close to home – and forms part of Merchants’ vision of taking jobs to local South African people living in township areas. Soweto accounts for 40% of Johannesburg’s population and suffers from 53% unemployment. Without viable local opportunities, residents lose money and time traveling far distances to seek or commute to work; small businesses and local services also miss out on consumers who spend income where they work, outside the community.
By expanding inclusive economic opportunities in Jabulani, this pioneering project not only creates new jobs, but strengthens the circular economy, taps into local Small, Medium and Micro-Enterprise (SMME) services, and introduces new businesses to the growing precinct.
Job Creation Potential
Located behind the Jabulani Mall, this spacious new infrastructure will result in significant job creation especially for those under the age of 25 and seeks to support further opportunities for the youth of Soweto. The partnership’s key focus is to increase employment and skills development as a direct response to the country’s youth unemployment challenge. In addition, the project will support several local SMMEs as suppliers to the centre.
Dr. Sydwell Shikweni, Transformation Director at Merchants, describes the importance of the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector, which has contributed 40,000 jobs to the South African economy since 2018. “The BPO industry is an important industry for job creation in South Africa, as we can hire impact workers who have no previous experience or tertiary education and upskill them for success, equipping them with important skills like problem-solving, empathy and interpersonal communication. We are both proud and excited to be adding this new centre to our network, as we continue to work hard on building a strong talent pipeline for the country.”
Recruitment Without Barriers
The recruitment process for the centre has been facilitated through Merchants’ MyCalling platform, which matches job seekers to suitable roles through behavioural profiling rather than traditional factors like educational background – removing the very real barriers to entry that young South Africans face. This results in higher rates of job satisfaction and performance. Employees will also receive extensive training and ongoing support to ensure their success, job satisfaction, and ensure they are equipped with the necessary skills for the future as they work alongside the latest technology.
Partnering for Good
Each partner involved in the centre brings distinct insight, experience, and support to the project. Merchants lends industry-leading expertise in designing and operating contact centres; AMANDLA Social Enterprises leads strategic implementation and social impact oversight; and the DBSA provides a central hub and co-solutioning platform through its Jabulani DLAB, a collective impact project co-developed and implemented by AMANDLA, in collaboration with the City of Johannesburg and various other partners.
“We are incredibly proud and excited to see this centre become operational,” says Florian Zech, Founder & Joint Managing Director, AMANDLA Social Enterprises. “Everything we do at AMANDLA is geared toward making access to opportunity more equitable for young people. This centre will do exactly that — and it’s made possible because dedicated partners have decided to put their talent and resources behind an ambitious vision for thriving township economies.”
Carey Lucas-Jooste, Head of Innovation at the DBSA, echoes the excitement shared by the partners. “The launch of the centre is a great example of how partnerships and collaboration can unlock sustainable development solutions that provide spaces within underserved communities for economic inclusion. The business process outsourcing (BPO) sector is a key focus area for the DLABS program nationally, and this collaboration with Amandla and Merchants, as well as the support of Harambee and PPGI contribute to the shift of the needle towards shared prosperity. The Gauteng Provincial Government continues to prioritise the development of a seamlessly integrated, socially cohesive and economically inclusive Gauteng City Region. The expansion of the GBS sector into townships will create decentralised employment opportunities and foster an inclusive economy. Job seekers will receive practical on-the-job training and gain the soft skills needed to navigate the modern workplace. The contact centres will open opportunities to work with international companies and receive work remotely.”
“Gauteng has already rolled out GBS infrastructure projects. Additional opportunities have been identified in other townships to attract more domestic and international GBS operators. We are on a right path in implementing pragmatic programmes and projects that seek to deliver shared prosperity for the citizens and communities of the Gauteng City Region,” says Parks Tau, Gauteng MEC for Economic Development, Environment, Agriculture and Rural Development.
“We believe this project serves as a real opportunity for other South African corporates to take part in bringing about this change and to jointly invest in the township economy and the communities where their goods and services are used. As a BPO provider, we are well placed to assist others to be part of the solution to job creation for our youth in South Africa,” concludes Shikweni.