Empowering Finance Professionals is Fundamental in Attaining Sustainable Development in Africa

By Alta Prinsloo, Chief Executive Officer, Pan African Federation of Accountants (PAFA)

The finance and accounting profession has undergone significant transformation over the years, coming from a primarily transactional and compliance-focused role to a strategic and analytical function that drives business growth, fosters compliance, embraces technology, and integrates sustainability principles in accounting and finance functions. This evolution has not only transformed our roles and responsibilities as finance and accounting professionals but has also shifted the skillsets required, demanding continuous learning and upskilling.

In today’s world, finance and accounting professionals must stay updated with the latest industry trends, technologies, and regulatory changes. Apart from academic certifications, professional certifications have become highly valued to demonstrate expertise and commitment to professional development. Continuous learning, technological proficiency, and the ability to provide a broader business perspective are becoming increasingly crucial for professionals in this evolving landscape. With the world becoming more interconnected, finance and accounting have become more globalized, compelling professionals to navigate complex international market dynamics, including managing multinational business operations, cross-border trade transactions that involve tackling regional and international tax and regulatory compliance matters.

In Africa, the role of accounting and finance professionals has become integral to the continent’s economic transformation. As the continent shifts its priorities from the struggle against apartheid and the attainment of political independence to social and economic development and regional and continental integration; accounting and finance professionals become the agents of change capable of shaping and aligning this socio-economic transformation with profitability and environmental sustainability.

For Africa to become a dominant player in the global economic arena, we must tap into the expertise, ethical standards, and strategic insights of our professional accountants and finance resources to facilitate sustainable economic development, promote financial inclusion, ensure good governance, and catalyze investments towards the aspirations outlined in the Agenda 2063.

As we move in this direction, we acknowledge that these professionals face a unique set of challenges and opportunities, often confronted with infrastructural gaps, complex and evolving regulatory landscapes, and varying economic realities from other parts of the world. The ACCA, from December 6-8, 2023, has brought together over 600 accounting and finance professionals in Johannesburg, South Africa, for their biennial Africa Members Convention. The conference is one of their initiatives towards empowering finance professionals in Africa to navigate this complex terrain while striving for financial stability and growth, which necessitates a multi-faceted approach, starting with the most basic education and training.

We must invest in financial education programmes that blend theoretical knowledge with practical skills tailored to address the continent’s needs and foster a culture of continuous learning through professional development programmes such as the certifications offered by ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants). Governments can also create an enabling environment through collaboration with academia and financial institutions and setting up policies that incentivise sustainable finance practices, thereby encouraging investments in sectors crucial for Africa’s sustainable growth.

The adoption of fintech solutions must be encouraged to enhance efficiency in financial operations and also facilitate financial inclusion. Through innovative mobile banking, blockchain-based transactions, and AI-driven analytics, finance professionals can expand access to financial services, particularly in remote and underserved regions, fostering economic empowerment and inclusivity.

Leaders of financial institutions must champion ethical standards, transparency, and accountability within organizational cultures. If we demonstrate high ethical standards, finance professionals can establish trust among investors and communities, thereby attracting sustainable investments that drive long-term socio-economic progress.

Once we put all these checks in place, we can nurture a cohort of financial leaders capable of steering Africa towards a future marked by economic prosperity, social equity, and environmental sustainability. So, let’s act now and recognize the pivotal role of finance professionals and collectively work towards empowering them as catalysts for sustainable development in Africa.

Alta Prinsloo is the Chief Executive Officer, Pan African Federation of Accountants (PAFA)