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Accounting iNdaba 2023 conference:

Highlights from SAIPA’s two-day conference
From embracing the possibilities that technology presents to gaining valuable insights from experts on business resilience, along with a few exciting announcements, this year’s Accounting iNdaba, proudly hosted by SAIPA in partnership with Sage, was a resounding success.

This achievement wouldn’t have been possible without the contributions of our other sponsors: Caseware Africa, Digital Practice Draftworx, Office of the Tax Ombud, Trusteeze, and Tax Trove. Their collective commitment to the profession’s success made the event a truly enriching experience.
The two-day virtual conference event, which took place on 1 and 2 November 2023, centred on the theme, Mastering the Demanding Environment: The power of agility & ethical practices in accountancy.
“The annual Accounting iNdaba has always been and remains our flagship event, which brings together our members, world-renowned speakers, relevant and compelling topics, together with panel discussions featuring subject matter experts,” said Prem Govender, SAIPA Chairperson, in her welcome address.

“Based on our links to the African continent via our involvement with the Pan-African Federation of Accountants, SAIPA is well aware of the interest and work that is currently being done in Africa to make the all-important paradigm shift towards sustainability and ESG. There can be no better expert than Simon Messenger from the IFRS Foundation to lead this very crucial conversation and share with us what we can expect going forward. We are also privileged to have in our midst Mr Scott Hanson from IFAC who will help us navigate through the minefield of regulatory changes our profession currently faces. For our evolving SMEs, I can’t wait to hear the message from Mr Darryl Scott of the World Bank,” Prem continued, giving the attendees a glimpse into what was to come.

SAIPA’s strong international partnerships were on display, with Asmâa Resmouki, President of the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) sharing a message on the pressing need to attract and retain dynamic talent in the profession. “What makes our profession attractive? The answer is that our work has purpose and we are a force for good. We offer guaranteed relevance to anyone seeking to make an impact across all sectors,” Asmâa poignantly said.

Dr Imtiaz Sooliman delivered a moving keynote address that set an inspiring tone for the rest of the event. He reminded the audience of the need to maintain a high level of South African pride in their roles, and their collective responsibility as nation builders held to a higher ethical standard than others.

SAIPA Chief Executive, Shahied Daniels, followed with an equally rousing address, outlining how Artificial Intelligence (AI) can support Professional Accountants (SA) in an ever-evolving era of business. “Accountancy professionals can guide their clients or employers through uncertain times, interpreting economic indicators and forecasting what these could mean for those organisations. In this instance, AI tools can prove useful for gathering the necessary economic data that in the past would need to be painstakingly researched by the advisor,” he said.

These sentiments were echoed throughout the conference as experts and professionals from various industries shared their research, insights and ideas around how technology and AI affect the role of the accountant of the future.

Johan Steyn, Human-Centred Artificial Intelligence Advocate, brought credibility to the AI accountancy conversation as an expert in the field by highlighting what AI means in its simplest terms and how accountancy professionals can leverage AI tools to “see into the future”. He added that while AI cannot replace the value that human accountancy professionals bring to the table, those who are not willing to adapt to the times and embrace technology for the value it can offer will inevitably be left behind.

SAIPA Centre of Future Excellence Executive, Professor Rashied Small, facilitated a panel discussion that lent its collective voice to the conversation around the changing role of the accountancy professional. The discussion explored ethics as an underpinning principle in leading organisations to attain sustainability, good governance in a digital age, and the impact of environmental concerns on business resilience. During the panel, former Chief Executive Officer of the Malaysian Institute of Accountants, Dr Nurmazilah Mahzan, emphasised that “it’s very important that the accountancy profession upskills and learns the relevant knowledge around sustainability, ESG, and reporting requirements. If we look to technology, we are doing a lot to learn about that. Now it’s time to look toward development and ESG in a similar way. We need to put our efforts towards collaborating with other organisations and professions to lead sustainability efforts”.

This issue of ethics links closely with the role of accountancy professionals in safeguarding the financial integrity of institutions and the country at large. This is especially crucial as South Africa gears up to get off the Financial Action Task Force’s greylist by fighting money-laundering and other related crimes. Scott Hanson, Director of Policy & Global Engagement at IFAC, expounded on this topic, shedding light on recent regulatory changes and the heightened responsibility of Professional Accountants (SA) in combatting the scourge of illicit financial crime.

Not unrelated in this realm is the topic of talent acquisition and retention related specifically to Gen Z employees. A panel discussion between industry executives within the HR, accountancy, and training and development realms was assembled to unpack what makes Gen Z’s tick, and possible strategies to consider in attracting and retaining Gen Z’s in the workplace.

A dynamic day two

Day two focused on the future of taxation, with chairperson of SAIPA’s National Tax and SARS Committee, Etienne Retief, getting the audience nostalgic with tales of the way tax used to be done just a decade or so ago – no e-filing or auto assessments, but professionals putting pen to paper to manually fill out IRP5 documents for the clients. Thabo Legwaila, CEO at the office of the Tax Ombudsman, added his tax insights to the conversation from an ethical standpoint.
Last but not least, Thomas Nyamvura, Technology Officer at SAIPA, took to the virtual stage to announce that SAIPA has launched the Cyber Kit as an integral part of SAIPA’s growing Digital Hub platform. Available exclusively to SAIPA members, the Cyber Kit offers a cyber security solution for accountancy professionals digitally accessing sensitive information for their own businesses and clients, giving them peace of mind in an age when cyber crime is one of the biggest threats facing enterprises.

The Cyber Kit includes interactive educational and informational material on cyber awareness, IT services that include secure data storage, and much more, all of which supports government efforts to ensure users remain compliant to relevant legislations such as the POPI Act. Find out more about the Cyber Kit at www.digitalhub.saipa.co.za/cyber-security-cyber-kit.
SAIPA extends its gratitude to all attendees, the speakers and panel experts who contributed, our valued sponsors, and the SAIPA team involved in making the two-day event such a resounding success.