ACCA’s 2019 Africa Members Convention gave professional accountants a guided tour of how to survive – and thrive amid – the continent’s ‘sociotechnomic’ disruptions
This article was first published in the February/March 2020 Africa edition of Accounting and Business magazine.
More than 800 ACCA members converged on the Rwandan capital of Kigali in December for ACCA’s biennial Africa Members Convention. Their objective: to explore how Africa – and more particularly, ACCA members and businesses – can thrive amid the social, technical and economic disruptions (the ‘sociotechnomic dispensation’) that prevail across the continent.
A number of key themes emerged. On leadership, George Njenga, executive dean of Kenya’s Strathmore University, said that Africa must reward competence, not connections, if it is to become strong. Sanjay Rughani, CEO of Standard Chartered Bank, Tanzania, and chair of the International Federation of Accountants’ Professional Accountants in Business Committee, pointed out the urgent need for national programmes to develop ethical leaders who can deal with the continent’s challenges and opportunities.
The public sector agenda was also up for discussion, with Martin Bakundana FCCA, senior business analyst at Nasdaq, revealing that only 8% of Africa’s professional accountants work in the sector.
In terms of public sector financial reporting, there has been slow progress on implementing International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS). Tanzania, which now has 640 entities consolidated under IPSAS, is one of the few countries to have implemented accruals-based IPSAS.
Florence Gatome, PwC senior partner for Rwanda, emphasised the clear investment case for IPSAS – accountability and transparency, complete financial information for decision-making, efficiency in financial reporting and comparability. She reminded attendees of the importance of engaging national auditor-general offices and external auditors in the delivery of the IPSAS roadmap.
Paul Ankunda FCCA, public financial management specialist at Uganda’s Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, highlighted other countries’ achievement in transitioning to IPSAS in a very short time by means of efficient leadership. Executive sponsorship of IPSAS, he said, is absolutely critical.
Vickson Ncube FCCA, CEO of the Pan African Federation of Accountants (PAFA), said it is important to link IPSAS to service delivery improvements and the anti-corruption fight. The skills gap was being closed by the Africa Professionalisation Initiative, he said, which was ensuring successful IPSAS implementation and public financial management reforms across Africa.
In an inspirational talk, academic Tererai Trent chronicled how she had survived a challenging upbringing in Zimbabwe to become a renowned speaker on gender equality.
Raised in poverty, and a mother with four children by the age of 18, she is now empowering girls in rural Zimbabwe with the help of a US$1m grant from US talkshow host Oprah Winfrey, who named Trent her all-time favourite guest. So far Trent’s work has reached 19,000 girls and includes the refurbishment of many schools. She urged attendees at the convention to see themselves not as victims but solution-bringers, adding that dreams have greater meaning if they are tied to the betterment of the community.
The career curve
Kingsley Ngwese ACCA, CEO of New Era Recruitment and Consultancy in Cameroon, addressed the careers theme. ‘Employability is a lifecycle,’ he pointed out, stressing the importance of mindset adjustment and the need to grasp that every situation presents both threats and opportunities.
Joseph Owolabi FCCA, a director at Deloitte and an ACCA Council member, added that life-long learning – particularly IT assurance and foreign language skills – is another essential for professional accountants. He stressed the fundamental importance of networking. ‘It is not about the contacts you have,’ he said, ‘but what you do with those contacts.’
A session on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) triggered a lively debate. Taiwo Oyedele FCCA, head of tax and corporate advisory services at PwC Nigeria, raised the question of whether Africa was still rising, as The Economist magazine proclaimed back in 2012.
The consensus was that the new free trade area offers an opportunity to re-energise the continent. AfCFTA will not only bring wider prosperity, but also benefits for accounting professionals in terms of mobility, mutual recognition of qualifications, and opportunities to learn new languages, IT solutions and arbitration skills.
To make AfCFTA work, Ncube said professionals had to be patriotic and focus on improving the lives of people, countries and the continent as a whole.
Former Zambian government minister Felix Mutati FCCA urged attendees to adopt an outward-looking mindset and work towards building a self-confident Africa. No challenge is insurmountable if Africans act together, he said, adding that the AfCFTA vision can be achieved if countries, governments and professionals unite across the continent for the benefit of all the people, not just the few.
Aiding tax evasion through manipulative transfer pricing practices was identified as an area where ethical and patriotic behaviour was particularly needed. Accounting professionals were urged to take a stand against corruption.
The convention concluded on a high note, with Brigitte Nangoyi Muyenga FCCA, a member of ACCA’s Council and finance commissioner at the Zambia Revenue Authority, challenging accountants to be in the forefront of the fight against corruption and to stem the billions of dollars lost in illicit financial flows out of Africa.
Having reflected on some of the key challenges and opportunities facing professional accountants in Africa in the ever changing landscape, the convention delegates returned to their home countries with much food for thought.
Dony Mazingaizo FCCA is a member of ACCA’s Accountants for Business Global Forum, part of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Zimbabwe’s public sector taskforce, and country director of Trócaire in Rwanda.