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Transformation: Playing The Long Game

Increasing the number of suitably qualified accounting professionals is key to transforming our communities, writes Levi Letsoko.

Launched in 2002, Thuthuka (a Zulu verb meaning “to develop”) has tackled the mammoth task of enabling transformation in the accounting profession through initiatives that include early-stage preparation of potential beneficiaries in all nine provinces.

“The Thutuka programme is a South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) initiative, which aims to transform, grow and own the accounting education landscape in the country,” says Gugu Makhanya, senior executive: Transformation Projects at SAICA. “SAICA’s involvement starts from school (basic, higher and training environments) right up to the professional qualification level.”

“Failing to own that landscape poses a significant risk to the profession and the country as this means we could  find ourselves without a pipeline of future business leaders.” This initiative is well resourced to create pipelines under the guidance and watchful eye of the TEUF Board. These pipelines’ main objective is to create a large pool of learners with quality mathematics results and provide them with a fully-funded and adequately supported academic programme that prepares them for the accounting profession.

Rolling out a project of this magnitude is not without challenges – most of these obstacles are deeply entrenched in the structural makeup of the country’s education system. Some of these challenges include a low number of learners with good mathematics results (60 per cent and above), as well as the scarcity of qualified teachers who can be entrusted with the responsibility of driving a high-performance campaign of ensuring learners’ improvement in this subject. “Other challenges that we constantly grapple with are the high drop-out rates at third-year level and increased failure rate at the professional examination levels,” says Makhanya.

Despite these challenges, the Thuthuka programme has achieved great milestones over the years, paving the path to economic participation of just over 1 020 qualified and registered Chartered Accountants CA(SA). “We have supported over 3 000 students, 900 of which have been awarded BCom degrees while 600 of those learners have acquired honours degrees. Thuthuka currently has 791 beneficiaries placed in CA(SA) training programmes,” Makhanya explains. “Our goal is to continue accelerating the pipeline until it fully reflects the country’s demographics. We hope to persuade the Department of Basic Education to position mathematics as a gateway subject for learners at school level,” she concludes. ”

Success story

In 2015, after being part of the Thuthuka Saturday Programme at Unisa in Pretoria, Bright Path Business Consultants founder Tlou Ledwaba CA(SA) received a call from SAICA inviting him to join the SAICA study programme based in Sandton. “SAICA played a major role in persuading my employer at the time to allow me to be part of the programme while working remotely for the company,” says Ledwaba. “The assistance provided me with all the support that I needed to pass my board examinations and helped alleviate any possible hindrances allowing me to focus on attaining my qualification,” he adds.

After completing his degree, Ledwaba served his articles at BDO South Africa for just over three-and-a-half years before launching Bright Path Business Consultants (BPBC). BPBC is a SAICA and SEDA accredited organisation, which positions the accounting firm as an assistant to the government’s implementation of the small business strategy.

Appointed as an accounting member of the Tax Court by the President in 2018, Ledwaba’s major achievements include being selected as a board member of Groote Schuur Hospital.

“The Thuthuka programme has awakened me to the importance of positioning myself as a bridge for other people to reach for their dreams. This is one of the reasons why I launched my accounting practice,” he concludes.

Tlou Ledwaba

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