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Finance: ACCA Calls for Multi-stakeholder Approach


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HL: ACCA call for action

Shortages of accounting skills have been reported globally. “While the shortage of accountants in Mainland China, estimated at 170 000 in 2008, could hamper economic growth and FDI in mainland China in the short to medium-term, current shortages of over 22 000 accountants in South Africa, could impact on the sound functioning of the economy, the country’s ability to attract FDI, including investment associated with the 2010 Soccer World Cup, and most importantly, on the service delivery in the public sector, in the short to medium-term,” says Head of ACCA South Africa, Dr Quinton Simpson.

Manpower South Africa’s second annual Talent Shortage Survey released in May 2008, ranked accounting and finance staff as the third most sought after skill in South Africa. Skills shortages are already perceived to be impacting very negatively on business in South Africa. Some 58% of respondents in Grant Thornton’s International Business Report released earlier this year cited a lack of skills as the greatest constraint to doing business in South Africa. In a similar vein, the Global Competitiveness Index, indicated that South African business executives had identified South Africa’s inadequately educated workforce as the single most problematic factor for doing business.

“While skills need to be developed across the spectrum, the demand for accounting skills, is expected to increase far more rapidly than the demand for some of the other skills,” Simpson observes.

ACCA's research report, ‘A changing profession, the evolution of accounting roles, skills and career aspirations’, highlights the fact that increasing regulation and the ever increasing complexity of business complexity are driving the demand for technical skills.

“South Africa cannot afford to wait a minute longer. The traditional approach to training accountants has not worked. The fact that demand for accountants far outstrips supply, attests to this fact. South Africa needs to implement a multi-stakeholder approach as a matter of great urgency. The various accounting bodies, tertiary institutions, educators, government, and the private and public sector need to join hands to devise strategies to train accountants in South Africa on an unprecedented scale. If such a strategy was implemented, the so-called BRIC (Brazil, People’s Republic of China, India and Russia) countries could soon become the BRICS countries, with South Africa, being the “S” in the acronym,” he explains.

Simpson says it is it is not “pie in the sky” nor is it na├»ve to believe that world-class accounting and finance skills can be developed on a massive scale in the medium-term. He concedes however, that in order to do so, accounting qualifications need to offer a range of entry points.

“ACCA has achieved considerable success in assisting markets in various parts of the world to develop accountants. KPMG and Ernst and Young have both worked closely with ACCA in formulating non-graduate entry routes for their UK businesses. ACCA has worked closely with Ernst and Young in Bahrain, to train 700 accountants a year for the next five years to ensure that Bahrain is well-positioned to provide financial services in the Gulf. ACCA has also partnered with PriceWaterHouseCoopers and the BPP to produce a pool of accounting talent in Amsterdam. These partnerships have all worked extremely well. There is absolutely no reason why our partnership model could not be replicated with great success, in South Africa,” Simpson observes.

ACCA offers qualifications, for technician, clerical, and administrative occupations at NQF levels 4 and 5. Qualifications for professional occupations are offered at NQF level 6 and 7.

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