Article Title: Can Lebanon become the next global outsourcing hub?

Published on: February 23, 2021 by: Wamda

All eyes have been on Lebanon over the past year, but for all the wrong reasons. One initiative is seeking to change the country’s narrative and reposition Lebanon as a prime outsourcing hub, servicing the world.

The Lebanon Outsourcing Initiative has just been launched by Bridge. Outsource. Transform (B.O.T), founded on the belief in Lebanese professionals and companies, and their competitive advantages to serve global organisations. The world has undergone numerous transformations over the past year, and businesses from all sectors have been disrupted. Teams are still working remotely, and business leaders are focused on cost optimisation and digitisation. However, an interesting shift has been in the growth of the outsourcing market, coupled with the sizable potential of the global investment market. 

To match the growing demand with competitive suppliers (be it freelancers, companies and agencies located in Lebanon), the Lebanon Outsourcing Initiative offers an optimised directory that connects expert Lebanese skillsets, to global organisations and professionals seeking specialised services. The scope of services to be offered is expansive, ranging from data services, creative industries, web and app development, digital services, finance, HR and software development, to name a few. 

This initiative comes at an integral time, due to the economic downturn in Lebanon, which has deeply impacted numerous job sectors. However, the only way to gain traction is to spark the conversation and gain international support, mainly through the 15 million strong Lebanese diaspora network. Accordingly, the funders of the initiative which include Alfanar, the Arab region’s first venture philanthropy organisation supporting social enterprises as well as the Lebanese International Finance Executives (LIFE) and powered by UNICEF Lebanon and DOT Lebanon, can ensure that Lebanon is once again on the global map – for positive reasons.  

Transforming Lebanon into an outsourcing hub is one of the key recommendations in the McKinsey Economic Vision for Lebanon of 2019, a plan which has yet to be realised. Alfanar, who provide funding, training and management support to social enterprises that have the potential to scale across Lebanon and the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region, are avid supporters of the ‘Outsource to Lebanon’ initiative. 

“We have partnered with LIFE to support social enterprises that are specifically focused on youth employment in the digital sector. The reasons are simply because, on the one hand, there is a huge shortage of qualified youth across the region; while on the other hand, we truly believe that Lebanon has all the characteristics and potential to be an outsourcing hub for the Mena region, Europe and North America,” says Michelle Mouracade, Alfanar’s Country Director for Lebanon. “There is no reason why India, the Philippines and Morocco can do a better job than us if, at the minimum, the Lebanese private sector, the third sector and the diaspora commit to leveraging the strengths of local organisations.” 

As an organisation that is accustomed to supporting global organizations, B.O.T, wanted to spark the conversation about the outsourcing potential of Lebanon. 

“There is so much talent in Lebanon, that the world’s leading companies can make use of. In this regard, we wanted to shed light on the range of services that we are confident Lebanese professionals can deliver on and spark the conversation – that Lebanon is a prime and competitive market to outsource to,” says Marianne Bitar Karam, Managing Director of B.O.T.

B.O.T is well accustomed to the outsourcing market and servicing international companies in different industries, such as consulting firms, educational institutions, INGOs and ICT sector companies. Their clients include Oliver Wymann, OLX, the International Labor Organization, UNICEF, the Norwegian Refugee Council, NASCO and the American University of Beirut.

Why is Lebanon a prime outsourcing market?

Lebanon is powered by a highly-skilled pool of talent, in data services creative, HR, finance, digital, software and web and app development sectors, among others. However, due to the economic situation, as well as the scarcity of opportunities, many of the brightest professionals are leaving the country, resulting in brain drain. To counter these challenges, the Lebanon Outsourcing Initiative has created a network of high-quality service providers based in Lebanon, who are offering their services at price competitive rates.

“Through the platform, international companies can work with the brightest minds and leading companies based in Lebanon, armed with a can-do results-oriented attitude, multilingual capabilities and at competitive rates,” Karam adds. 

The size of the global impact investment market is substantial, estimated at $715 billion according to GIIN (Global Impact Investing Market). One way to capture a portion of this funding is to strengthen social enterprises that are changing lives like B.O.T and who have the potential to replicate across the Mena region.

“The only way to channel some of these (fresh) funds to Lebanon is by nurturing and growing the social enterprise sector and the incredible social entrepreneurs who are winning award after award on the international scene, such as B.O.T,” says Mouracade.

How can companies and freelancers encourage clients to ‘outsource’ to them?

Companies, freelancers and agencies seeking to provide outsourcing services to international organisations need to define their core service offerings, and ensure there is global demand for what they offer. In addition, after having formalised the mode of operation, they should set their pricing models to be both competitive, yet cover their costs. Moreover, marketing and communication on digital channels is vital to get the word out. Outsourcing companies and freelancers should strengthen their online profiles and ensure their websites rank well to stand out globally. Lastly, by providing an exceptional quality of service time and time again, repeat clients are guaranteed and will most likely refer others to the organization. 

So, can Lebanon become the next global outsourcing hub? We believe so – but to sustain this positioning, freelancers and outsourcing companies need to continuously deliver in an optimal way, at the lowest cost possible to stay competitive with international markets.