Up to 30 000 South Africans will ultimately be trained to work in call centres as government moves to make the country a more competitive destination for business process outsourcing for international companies.

Initially, 1, 000 people will be trained on a programme that has already been designed and a proposal for its funding has been prepared for the Department of Labour, said Trade and Industry Minister Mandisi Mpahlwa, briefing the media on government's programme of action through cabinet's economic, investment and employment cluster on Wednesday.

  And the Department of Communications has finalised an incentive package on ICT - information communications technology - to produce 10 "developmental call centres" that government intends locating in rural areas, with the aim of creating employment in economically-depressed areas.

The National Treasury is also involved in incentivising support measures for business process outsourcing and offshoring that has the potential for "massive job creation" in centres designed to produce a world-class service, Mr Mpahlwa said.

Key factors in South Africa's favour for attracting business process outsourcing are its time zone, which falls comfortably within European time zones, as well as the country's English-language capacity.

Success with locating new call centres in rural areas will depend on appropriate mechanisms for connectivity, said the Minister, adding that a Broadband Development Advisory Council had been appointed within the context of bringing down the costs of ICT and that its first report is due at the end of this year.

Related to this work is that of the Local Loop Unbundling Committee, which has also been appointed and which will report in six months' time.

And state-owned IT company Sentech has submitted a business plan to the Department of Communications that is expected to be finalised by the end of this month, said the minister. He added that the rollout of Sentech's wireless broadband network will be included in the integrated infrastructure investment plan to be presented to the January 2007 Cabinet lekgotla.