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Forty years of envisioning the future of accountancy

South African Institute of Professional Accountants
26 January 2022

Forty years of envisioning the future of accountancy

On Thursday, 27 January 2022, the South African Institute of Professional Accountants (SAIPA) celebrates its 40th anniversary as a world-renowned professional accountancy organisation (PAO).

Since its inception, the Institute has passionately pursued the advancement of its members as competent Professional Accountants (SA), the elevation of the profession itself, and economic growth through excellence in accountancy.

This is according to Shahied Daniels, Chief Executive of SAIPA. “After 40 years, the clarity of our vision continues to fuel unwavering commitment and relentless determination in everything we do,” he says, adding thatSAIPA is a critical player in South Africa’s development journey, with the work of accountantancy and finance professionals being fundamental to the stability, efficiency and sustainability of companies, financial markets, and economies.

4 decades of growth

The Institute was formed in 1982 under the name of the Association of Commercial and Financial Technicians of South Africa (ACFT). Its aim was to capacitate the growing demand for pure accountancy services in anticipation of the soon-to-be promulgated Close Corporations Act, 69 of 1984.

From the start, the organisation was determined to play a key role in the evolution of accountancy in South Africa, consistently adapting its strategic model to evolving business needs.

Over the years and throughout several name changes, its identity was refined until, in 2006, it reached its current form as the South African Institute of Professional Accountants (SAIPA).

A watershed moment came in 1995 when SAIPA was accepted into the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC), a global professional body comprising 180 PAOs representing over 3 million accountants worldwide.

Today, the Institute is a voting member of both IFAC and the Pan African Federation of Accountants (PAFA), the continent’s largest accountancy body. SAIPA is also recognised by industry as one of the country’s leading accountancy authorities.

“Four decades of dynamic growth prepared us for the complex circumstances in which we currently find ourselves and the forces shaping the future of accountancy,” says Daniels.

Digital response to COVID-19

When COVID-19 hit the country in early 2020, SAIPA’s digital transformation journey was already at an advanced stage. This allowed the body to offer its full suite of services remotely to members in lockdown through its proprietary MySAIPA Cloud-based platform.

Almost overnight, the Institute also replaced its venue-based professional evaluation (PE) with an online assessment that ensured candidates were able to qualify without delay, while preserving the PE’s integrity through AI-based invigilation.

Other initiatives that have been rapidly digitalised include SAIPA’s Project Achiever programme for PE candidates; National Accounting and Maths Olympiad (NAMO) competition for Grade 11 and 12 pupils; free maths and accounting support classes for Grade 12 learners, SAIPA’s Annual General Meeting; member engagement sessions; Budget Breakfast event to review the annual national budget speech; and its annual Accounting iNdaba global conference.

“We have seen businesses and other professional bodies struggle to find the right recipe for digitalisation, so we are extremely proud to have built a virtual ecosystem that exceeds expectations,” says Daniels.

Future readiness

In addition to SAIPA’s existing Centre of Tax Excellence (CoTE), another major milestone was the launch of its new Centre of Business Advisory (CoBA). CoBA aims to impart essential competencies to accountants and other professionals who are being approached more and more by their clients for business advice.

Leading in thought leadership and visionary education design is SAIPA’s Centre of Future Excellence (CoFE), a think tank that researches emerging trends in business and finance to determine the future competencies accountants will need and build continuous professional development (CPD) training programmes to instil them.

“The future-ready Professional Accountant (SA) will not be a bean counter or mere reporter of financial health but will create value from business data to inform effective strategic decision-making,” says Daniels, noting that SAIPA will continue to work to ensure its members remain relevant and capable professionals that readily adapt to a digital world driven by automation and artificial intelligence.

“The last 40 years taught us that tomorrow starts today and SAIPA will honour that lesson by walking boldly into the future as a proactive and progressive leader of change “We look forward to continuing to build a strong accounting profession in the country, which will enable the South African economy to seize opportunities for further growth and prosperity,” Daniels concludes.