Accounting can no longer be an ‘exclusive, top-heavy club’

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IFAC president Asmâa Resmouki says there should be lower costs and barriers to entry for the profession.

A number of key accounting profession stakeholders, including the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC), The Chartered Institute of Business Accountants (CIBA) and Consumer Goods Council of South Africa (CGSA), have called on accounting bodies to widen their membership base.

Asmâa Resmouki, newly elected president of the IFAC, says that the accounting profession can no longer be “an exclusive, top-heavy club”.

She called on professional accounting bodies to include finance professionals with intermediary and entry-level qualifications: “There should be a lower barrier to entry and a lower cost to qualify.”

Asmâa’s comments were made during the observance of International Accounting Day hosted by the Pan African Federation of Accountants (PAFA) as part of the IFAC World Congress of Accountants. The event explored how professional accountancy organisations will shape the next generation of African accountants.

South Africa has an estimated 300,000 to 400,000 accountants, however only about 25 percent of these have been designated by professional bodies, according to CIBA CEO Nicolaas van Wyk.

He said, “Anyone should be able to become a recognised accountant even if they don’t follow the ‘traditional’ route. While there should be no compromise on the quality of designations, and the application process should be thorough, there should be more pathways for accountants who’ve taken the road less travelled.”

He added, “The old simplistic model of four years study and three years articles to become a designated accountant is outdated and cannot keep up with the explosion of information. Just by studying for many years does not mean you know how business works and should not be used as the measure of whether you are an accountant that can add appropriate value to a business.”

Zinhle Tyikwe, CEO of the Consumer Goods Council of South Africa (CGCSA), recently noted that the retail sector – and many others – need multi-skilled accountants.

She said, “We find that in South Africa, accountants are coming through from an auditing firm. Their strengths are more in auditing than financial management and understanding the retail environment. If an accountant is provided an opportunity to not just focus on accounting but also on business operations, they do wonders.”

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