BEIRUT: It is about time the government moves beyond branding Lebanon as just a tourism destination to promoting the country as a business hub for high value-added services, both established and startup entrepreneurs have long complained.
A few weeks ago, the Investment Development Authority of Lebanon did just that, bucking the trend of near-paralysis in almost every state institution since the resignation of the government in March.
IDAL, a state-affiliated organization, participated for the first time in the International Outsourcing Forum held on Oct. 3 in France, where it promoted Lebanon as an outsourcing destination for multinational companies.
Accompanying a delegation from IDAL, two Lebanese companies had the opportunity to present their service offerings through customized business-to-business meetings with international companies such as Altcatel Lucent, British Petroleum, DHL Express, General Electric and Llyods among others.
IDAL had initially approached 50 Lebanese firms that offer a broad range of outsourcing services to participate in the forum. Twenty-five expressed interest and participated in a workshop organized by IDAL and chaired by its president, Nabil Itani.
Two companies eventually participated in the forum as the remaining shied away either because of logistical obstacles or the travel expenses and forum fees, which organizers reduced by 50 percent for Lebanese participants upon IDAL’s request.
“Our objective was to position Lebanon on the global map as a potential center for high value-added services. Though our efforts might take time before they materialize, the initiative is a first that needs follow up in a consistent manner,” IDAL Project Manager Leila Sawaya El Khoury, who participated at the forum, told The Daily Star.
More than 200 Lebanese companies employing more than 5,000 individuals currently offer outsourcing services that fall under three main subsectors: call centers, business process outsourcing services (BPO), and information technology outsourcing, according to an IDAL study.
The majority of these firms offer IT solutions and employ 4,143 individuals while 13 operate as call centers providing 854 jobs.
However, despite their competitiveness in terms of a highly skilled Lebanese labor force – a top consideration for outsourcing destinations – few have been able to successfully attract multinational clients.