Author: Bongani Coka, Chief Executive of the South African Institute of Professional Accountants
Nelson Mandela was clear that the purpose of living was to make a difference in the lives of others and driving positive change in the country is the best way to truly honor his legacy.
Against this backdrop I want to motivate South African business, our members and the country’s citizens at large to give serious thought as to how they want to mark 18 July.
In my view, we can best achieve this by looking at what the national imperatives are and then consider how we can use our special skills to further those imperatives. By taking this approach, our individual efforts are multiplied by the work others are doing, and we are using our limited resources most intelligently.
The first point of call should be to interrogate the National Development Plan (NDP) and the information put out by Stats SA. That way, companies and individuals can see what the key levers for driving social change are. The vital second step is to look at how to bring one’s particular skills to bear on the identified challenges.
Passing on skills
For Professional Accountants, the decision is relatively easy. Maths and Accounting are generally recognised to be critical in creating a vibrant economy—but the educational system remains unable to produce them. In 2015, for example 140 474 pupils wrote Accounting and only 59.6 percent of them were able to achieve a score of 30 percent or above.
Surely we should be directing our efforts towards growing the pipeline of talented young people who choose accounting as a career. By passing on skills or even inspiring a young person to take a particular path, we can change his or her life and contribute to the country’s transformation. This is a better use of an accountant’s time than, say, painting a school, I believe.
For this reason, donating time is inherently more valuable over the long term than money or things, important as these are. Thus, for example, a Professional Accountant could consider delivering a lecture or course of lectures to learners at a particular school, and leaving behind a set of notes or some software for educator to use.
Further, I’d like to encourage members of the South African Institute of Professional Accountants (SAIPA) to look beyond just one day, and treat 18 July to 17 August 2016 as Mandela Month to create opportunities for more ambitious projects that might include some mentoring as well.
Carefully thought-out initiatives can help improve BEE scores but, even more importantly, they can improve the image of the profession within the broader community. This has many positive benefits—it will help to increase the number of people wanting to enter that profession, and it will also serve to strengthen its “social licence” by demonstrating that it acknowledges its responsibilities to the broader stakeholder community.
Let’s use Mandela Day or, even better, Mandela Month, as a way to share our professional skills in the most effective way to drive lasting, wide-reaching and sustainable social change. Mandela was not just a man of words—he was an action man who wanted results. That’s the best way to honour his memory.
National Accounting Olympiad
One of SAIPA’s initiatives include its annual National Accounting Olympiad, which aims to make Accounting a preferred subject choice to all students, and to promote the option of professional accountancy as a sound choice for further study and the pathway towards a financially and personally rewarding entry into employment.
Teachers are encouraged to invite Grade 12 accounting learners who wish to follow a B.COM degree in Accounting as further study to enter for the competition
The first round of the 2016 competition is scheduled for May at the learners’ respective schools. All learners who qualify for the final round will be invited to participate in the final round on 27 July. The final round will determine provincial and national winners in two streams: government and private schools.
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