A groundbreaking study of the accountancy profession in Africa reveals that 55% of accountants are optimistic about Africa’s economic prospects, but skills shortages, particularly in the areas of technology and strategy, are a major concern for the responders.
ACCA (the Association of Chartered Accountants), PAFA (the Pan African Federation of Accountants) and PwC have joined forces to develop the State of the profession in Africa report, interviewing over 1,750 professionals to gather their views on the profession’s contributions to the continent, as well as the challenges, threats and opportunities ahead. The report also collects feedback from over 100 participants at various business and public sector roundtables, convened to gather the opinions of experts across Africa.
The research was analyzed under four themes: capacity building, partnerships, influence for socio-economic development and future preparation of the profession.
Focusing on capacity building, technology (53%) was the largest skills gap identified, followed by strategic planning, market intelligence and performance management (49.3%).
The results revealed a startling paradox for the profession in building ethical and sustainable businesses while lacking environmental, social and governance (ESG) insight. Some 57% say this limits the involvement of professional accountancy organizations (PAOs) and their members in climate change and ESG programs.
Alarmingly, 92% of accountants working in the mining industry do not see ESG among the top three industry trends, and 40% of all members surveyed highlighted the ability to integrate climate change and ‘ESG in Financial Reporting as a Major Skills Lack.
The report asserts that partnerships are essential for the accountancy profession to be resilient, and offers various calls to action for accountants, PBOs and the many stakeholders in the finance and accountancy ecosystem – including educational institutions higher education, business, public sector, standardization – decision makers and regulators, governments and policy makers.
Jamil Ampomah, Director of ACCA Africa, said: “Respondents’ views on ESG are certainly a red flag. Barriers need to be overcome as accounting professionals have a unique opportunity to lead the adoption of ESG in their organizations, in their own countries, across Africa and globally. One of the report’s strong recommendations is that the profession hones itself here – the tools and skills are available to do so, so the opportunity is waiting to be seized.
Alta Prinsloo, President and CEO of PAFA, added: “If the accountancy profession is to be fit for the future, it must be digital, contribute to socio-economic development and play a key role in building ethical businesses. and durable. To facilitate this, more and better collaboration is imperative – and this starts with national PBOs. PAFA stands ready to facilitate collaboration between PBOs and stakeholders to respond to the calls to action contained in the report.
Mary Iwelumo, Partner, PwC Nigeria and Head of Strategy for PwC West Market, concluded: “We were surprised by the finding that accountants generally did not expect ESG to have a significant impact on the profession. and professionals over the next decade. At PwC, we had hoped that the knowledge that ESG is a business imperative would be universal, especially among professionals who have a seat and a voice at the table of business leaders. This disturbing discovery should therefore encourage us all to work together to build an education system that will equip accountants to anticipate, prepare for and thrive in the future.