SAIPA Olympiad Gets Underway

Media release

27 May 2011


Great careers start long before children finish their schooling. That’s the fast answer to why the South African Institute of Professional Accountants (SAIPA) invests substantially in its annual National Accounting Olympiad, the country’s premier competition which encourages interest in and the study of accounting in schools across the country. Through the competition, SAIPA raises the profile of professional accounting as a sound choice for further study and the pathway towards a financially and personally rewarding entry into employment.

The first round of the competition is underway, with learners sitting the exams on 25 May 2011.

According to Shirley Olsen, chairperson of the SAIPA Olympiad Committee, building the accountancy profession is among the roles played by the body. “The Olympiad is among the key initiatives to encourage senior school children to consider further studies in accounting. It is a competition which sets out to expose the attractiveness of professional accounting as a career choice to learners in Grades 11 and 12 throughout the country,” she explains.

It has proven a popular competition, too; from its beginnings in 2002 with just 153 entrants, more than 1400 learners from 300 schools participated this year.

Olsen says the Olympiad aims to promote accountancy as a career by encouraging learners from all over the country to take part in a ‘battle of the minds’. And it’s not just academic prestige which they stand to win, either: “Substantial prizes including bursaries to some of the country’s top universities, notebook computers and cash are up for grabs,” she notes. “But perhaps more importantly, the competition throws open the doors to further interest in and study of accounting for a great many students seeking a career which is challenging, rewarding and can be the first steps to executive-level employment.”

And ample opportunity exists in the workplace, Olsen makes clear. “With a shortage of around 27 000 accountants in South Africa alone, we need to encourage school-leavers to seriously consider professional accountancy as a career path. It’s a necessity for the profession and the economy, while providing outstanding employment for the individual,” she says.

As an organization committed to transformation – and which believes education is a cornerstone in allowing the less fortunate to realize their full potential –SAIPA has opened new streams to the National Accounting Olympiad competition. “Already in 2010, we introduced the ‘Dinaledi Schools’ stream, which was the first step towards encouraging underprivileged schools to enter, providing these learners with the opportunity to participate,” she says.

The Dinaledi Schools project was launched by Government in 2001; there are 500 such schools across all nine provinces. These institutions encourage participation and performance in maths and science, particularly among previously disadvantaged learners. “Those students with an interest in Mathematics and Science have found a haven in these schools, where they can study these subjects with government assistance,” Olsen explains.

Noting that the socio-economic challenge faced by many in South Africa cannot be addressed by government alone, she says SAIPA is proud of its ability to complement the Dinaledi Schools project. “Accountancy is a maths-based subject. It is an opportunity for the underprivileged to make their mark as future professionals contributing to the community and South African society.”

Briefly, Olsen says that some 702 schools were invited nationally to participate in this year’s event. Following the First Round exam, written on 25 May, the top three learners in every region will enter the second round, with that exam written on the 03 August. 66 Regional winners and 6 National winners will be identified in the final results of the competition. The National Gala Awards Evening is scheduled for 22 September 2011.

About SAIPA (South African Institute of Professional Accountants)

SAIPA ( is a professional accountancy organisation of professional accountants in practice, commerce and industry, government and academia. The majority of its members are in public practice, offering accountancy and allied services, excluding auditing, to the general public and the business community, especially in the SMME sector. SAIPA is a full member of IFAC ( which is a global organisation for the accountancy profession.