Authors: Bruce Vivian, Senior Technical Manager – Professionalization, AFROSAI-E and Marta Russell, Technical Manager, IFAC
Monday 6 January 2020
Competency-driven. Problem-based. Relevant. Innovative. These are the promises of the African Professionalisation Initiative’s (API) first major education project.
The API is a partnership between accountants general, supreme audit institutions and professional accountancy organizations (PAOs) across the continent, the goal of which is to “grow the capacity of professional accountants and auditors who are equipped to support accountability, transparency and good governance in the public sector.”
The African public sector has a significant shortage of professional accountants and auditors. Those working in government have typically been exposed to private sector theory during their initial professional development, which can result in a lack of understanding of public sector complexities and expectations. Without sufficient, appropriately trained professional accountants, African states are vulnerable to exploitation and corruption.
The African Professionalisation Initiative
The API addresses the need by “setting the benchmark for public accounting and auditing professionals in Africa and providing the tools to turn this benchmark into reality.” To date, the API has developed a competency framework and an accelerated learning curriculum for public sector financial management staff. These initiatives form the foundations for the current project.
Funded by the UK Department for International Development through the IFAC Capacity Building Program, the project will produce an online learning course for experienced individuals working in public financial management (PFM) who do not have a professional accountancy background.
This learning content, which covers the essentials of public sector accountancy, will be offered to PAOs and governments to enable them to enhance the skills and knowledge of individuals working in the public sector.
PAOs will be able to use the course content to create an accelerated pathway to an accountancy designation for their public sector members and partner with the API to implement the course in their countries. They will also be able to add local modules to the course content to provide a bespoke, seamless learning experience that merges international standards and best practices with locally-relevant learning content. The course will be globally-accessible, delivering learning materials via an online platform.
Click here to hear more from Bruce on the project and answers to some frequently asked questions.
Meisie Nkau, chief executive officer of the African Organization of English-speaking Supreme Audit Institutions (AFROSAI-E), which is managing the project on behalf of API, describes the project as, “The biggest step to date in the API journey. The API partner organizations* believe that these ground-breaking learning materials will grow the accountancy competencies of public servants, leading to enhanced public financial management and improved service delivery on the African continent.”
AFROSAI-E has contracted with IASeminars, a respected international provider of accountancy education solutions, to deliver the project. The managing director of IASeminars, Deborah Fyfe, explains that, “The IASeminars team is proud to be part of this ambitious project which is set to bring relevant and innovative learning opportunities to public sector finance workers across many African nations. We are also excited to be working with the API team and share their vision for producing a new approach to online professional development.”
Using technology to communicate and access web-based content across the African continent has increased exponentially in the last decade. The benefits of this include greater cross-border interaction, more effective and efficient information sharing, and knowledge exchange across this sizeable region, something that IFAC and the Pan African Federation of Accountants have always supported and facilitated through workshops, initiatives like the African Congress of Accountants, and regionally-tested guidance on information communication technology, for example.
One of the key aims of IFAC’s Capacity Building Program has been to find opportunities and solutions that are applicable to a wide range of countries—simultaneously region-relevant, based on international standards, and customizable to country context. This is far more challenging than it may appear.
While the needs of individual countries and their PAOs are addressed by the capacity building frameworkIFAC has developed, what is actually delivered on the ground can be affected by factors such as the political environment, the ability of the beneficiary to absorb knowledge and sustain activities, and existing or evolving legal/regulatory considerations. The API project is a perfect example of how IFAC and its partners have come together to identify and address a regional challenge with a digital, transferable solution that has the potential for global growth.
It is widely acknowledged that professional accountants are key to effective prioritization, accountability and efficiency in managing and delivering public resources and services. In addition, for any PFM reform efforts to bring sustainable change, donor assistance is best channeled through sound in-country public financial management systems.
Anticipation for the course material is building amongst stakeholders across the African continent. When launched, it has the potential to ensure that public funds are managed for the benefit of today’s citizens, future generations, and to achieve the aspirations of the African Union’s Agenda 2063: “The Africa We Want”.
Launch of the learning content and online learning platform is expected in the third quarter of 2020.
*The African Professionalization Initiative
The African Professionalisation Initiative is a partnership between the African Organisation of English-speaking Supreme Audit Institutions (AFROSAI-E), le Conseil Régional de Formation des Institutions Supérieures de Contrôle des Finances Publiques de l’Afrique Francophone sub-Saharienne (CREFIAF), the East and South African Association of Accountants General (ESAAG) and the Pan African Federation of Accountants (PAFA). For more information please refer to the API website.