ACCA head highlights accountants’ critical role in African SME growth

By Anthony Muchoki

Accountants play an indispensable role in the growth and sustainability of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) across Africa, Mr. George Njari, Head of Eastern Africa for the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), has said.
“ACCA is dedicated to preparing accountants to become trusted advisors for SMEs, a role that is crucial for Africa’s economic transformation. We focus on guiding them in key areas such as sustainability, technology, and financial growth,” Mr. Njari stated.
In a media interview discussing the upcoming 4th Africa Members Convention of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) to be held in Johannesburg, South Africa, Mr. George Njari, Head of Eastern Africa for ACCA, emphasized the critical role of accountants in fostering the growth and sustainability of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) across Africa.
The convention, which is set to take place from December 6th to 8th, 2023, will gather over 1,000 ACCA members and partners from across Africa and key global stakeholders. This year’s event also marks the 2nd edition of the Africa Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Awards.

He noted that the upcoming convention holds paramount importance for Africa’s business and finance sectors. At its core, finance functions serve as the backbone of organizations, and professional accountants have a pivotal role in driving meaningful, impactful change towards more socially just and environmentally sustainable economies.

The conference theme, “Empowering Finance Professionals for Sustainable Development in Africa,” precisely encapsulates the essence of what sustainable development entails for the accountancy profession. It’s not just about being adept at handling today’s challenges but also being prepared for the future. Accountants must continuously evolve, enhancing their capabilities to remain relevant in a rapidly changing world, he noted.
“Accountants need to be fit for today and tomorrow’s future, building capability to stay relevant, and providing broader support to business, society, and the environment,” he said.

When asked about the current state of the accountancy profession in Africa and its crucial role in fulfilling Africa’s Agenda 2063, Mr. George Njari, Head of Eastern Africa for the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), provided a comprehensive perspective.

“The accountancy profession in Africa is distinctively hyper-connected and integral to a networked community,” explained Mr. Njari. “It’s pivotal for accountants to step out of silos and engage actively within an ecosystem that includes not just their peers but also spans private and public sector organizations, SMEs, educational institutions, and government bodies.”

Mr. Njari emphasized the profession’s consciousness of current challenges, including skill shortages and the need for upskilling in Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) aspects. However, he also highlighted a sense of optimism that permeates the profession. “There’s an eagerness to expand, to demonstrate the significant value that accountants can bring to the table across Africa,” he said.

Expressing enthusiasm about the future, Mr. Njari encouraged more young people to consider a career in accountancy. “It’s an exciting era for the profession. We’re at a juncture where amplifying the value and impact of accountants in Africa is crucial for the continent’s advancement towards the goals set in Agenda 2063.”
Regarding the upcoming convention’s coincidence with the COP 28 conference in UAE, the importance of this alignment was emphasized. “COP 28 represents a significant global event, and our convention aims to complement its agenda,” Mr. Njari stated.
The role of professional accountants in Africa in transitioning to a more sustainable world is highlighted as crucial. In the journey towards a greener, fairer, and sustainable future, accountants play a central role. They are pivotal in ensuring that economic growth and environmental sustainability are not mutually exclusive but go hand in hand.
One of the key contributions of accountants is in aiding organizations to effectively measure and report their environmental impact, ensuring that business decisions align with broader sustainability goals. Beyond this, accountants are also crucial in identifying paths for resource optimization, cost reduction, and promoting responsible investment strategies. These actions are vital in addressing the urgent demands of the climate crisis, he said.
The necessity of equipping the accounting profession with the skills to manage the complexities of sustainability reporting, green finance, and ethical investment is underscored. “This upskilling is essential to expedite the global transition towards an economy that is both environmentally conscious and equitable,” Mr. Njari indicated. Professional accountants, as the financial stewards of a sustainable future, hold indispensable expertise in this critical global endeavour.

Addressing the role of accountancy in facilitating regional integration and promoting cross-border trade and investment in Africa, Mr. Njari, referred to a significant research undertaking. “We posed this very question to over 1,600 accountancy professionals across Africa as part of our collaboration with PAFA for the ‘Journey to AU2063: Professional accountants empowering AfCFTA’ report,” Mr. Njari remarked.
The findings of this research underscore the unique position of accountancy and finance professionals in optimizing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) through their roles as super-connectors. However, the study also highlighted a notable gap: a low level of awareness and involvement in the AfCFTA among accounting professionals. To address this, the ACCA recommended a series of actions aimed at integrating various ecosystems, including professional services, institutions, businesses, finance, and political policies.

In response to the question on how ACCA and its members are contributing to the sustainable development and transformation of sectors facing sustainability challenges in Africa, Mr. Njari offered a comprehensive perspective.

“Africa is grappling with a range of sustainability challenges, including environmental issues and social inequalities in sectors like health, education, agriculture, infrastructure, technology, and energy,” Mr. Njari began. “At ACCA, we recognize our purpose as being a force for public good, which fundamentally involves playing an active role in creating a better world for today and future generations.”

He elaborated that ACCA sees professional accountants as essential to supporting economies in their sustainable growth and prosperity. “Our strategy is closely aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), reflecting our commitment to these global objectives,” he added.

Mr. Njari highlighted the key approach of ACCA in fostering sustainable development: “Our members and students are active across all the sectors mentioned. We primarily support sustainable development by providing them with comprehensive education and training. This empowers them to integrate and champion sustainable practices within their organizations and to influence policy, regulation, and standards in their respective fields.”

He emphasises the broader impact of this approach. “By equipping our members and students with the necessary skills and knowledge, we enable them to contribute directly to the sustainable transformation of these sectors. It’s about embedding sustainability at the core of their professional roles, ensuring they can effectively address the unique challenges and opportunities presented in their industries.”

In discussing the role of accountants in supporting the development of a robust SME sector in line with Agenda 2063’s vision, Mr. Njari of ACCA offered valuable insights into their contribution to this critical area.

“SMEs are integral to the fabric of every economy, and this is particularly true in Africa,” Mr. Njari stated. “Professional accountants, including those from ACCA, are often the first port of call and trusted advisors for these SMEs, especially when navigating financial challenges.”

He elaborated on the support provided by ACCA to empower these enterprises: “We ensure that our members are well-equipped with the necessary knowledge to advise SMEs effectively. This includes guidance on managing cash flow, integrating sustainability practices, and leveraging new technologies like AI. Our aim is to provide comprehensive support that addresses the multifaceted needs of SMEs.”

Mr. Njari also highlighted ACCA’s proactive initiatives in this regard. “Last July, ACCA played a pivotal role in facilitating a virtual roundtable involving over 160 SMEs, in collaboration with the Federal Reporting Council of Nigeria and other key partners. This event was instrumental in collectively submitting a comment letter in response to the ISSB exposure drafts IFRS S1 and IFRS S2, which focus on sustainability-related and climate-related disclosures, respectively. This letter was a reflection of a united regional response, incorporating ACCA’s global stance as well as the unique perspectives of small businesses across Africa.”


Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *