By Babajide Komolafe

The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) is the global body for professional accountants. Rrecently it introduced some programmes and measures aimed at addressing the challenge of graduate unemployment in the country. In this interview, Head of ACCA Nigeria, Mrs. Toyin Ademola explains the rationale for these measures, as well as what ACCA intends to achieve in Nigeria and for Nigeria. Excerpts:

What is ACCA, and what is its mission in Nigeria?
ACCA is a global professional accountancy body with offices in 170 countries worldwide. Our values are accessibility, opportunity, accountability and innovation. Our mission wherever we are especially in Nigeria is to be able to improve the finance and accounting profession and give opportunity and accessibility to lots of people. There cases in some countries and even in some professions in Nigeria where you can’t be a member of a professional body until you have a degree, but we in ACCA know that a degree is not the end point. It is a process. It is about the education, the information, the knowledge that you actually have. That is why we say we give people access and opportunity.

For instance somebody who didn’t have a degree does not need an accessing company to test his qualification. You will be accessed based on the qualification that you have, whether it is ‘O’ level, whether it is OND, whatever it is, you will be accessed based strictly on that. The fact that   someone has an ‘O’ level qualification doesn’t mean the person cannot become the Accountant-General of the Federation. We work a lot on that because the syllabus of ACCA is well rounded. It covers leadership and finance, competency development and many others.

ACCA recently did some recruitment related programmes like the Job fair, what is the rationale for this?

Remember I said that our main objective is to provide opportunity and accessibility to anybody that is interested in becoming an ACCA member. So the kind of things we do is to link employers to their potential employees and vice versa, and how do we do that? We do things called employer event, we do graduate forums, because we also realize why the level of employment is high in Nigeria, about 22 per cent to 23 per cent.  It   is because most of the graduates don’t have access to the employers. For example, we had a graduate recruitment fair, and we had companies like Coca Cola, GTB, First Bank, UBA, PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) there. On a normal basis, these graduates will probably not have had access to these companies. But bringing everybody together like that gave them the opportunity.

Toyin Ademola
Toyin Ademola

ACCA also launched an online job portal. What are the objectives?
ACCA has a network of over 3,500 employers all over the world and we do a lot of partnership activities with them. Now based on that, what we always find is that employers are always asking us, to refer finance professionals. That again, going back to the logic of what we said, we make sure that everybody is accessible and we give them opportunity of working in different countries. So basically we have a career portal, and all our employers load their vacancies on the career portal on our ACCA website  and the ACCA member or student will be able to access that and will see the vacancies and they can apply for it.

What it does is, it gives our network of employers the ability to employ anybody from any country. We don’t want somebody to say because he studied for ACCA here in Nigeria, he can only get employment here in Nigeria. So what we did before was that we had vacancy listing from everywhere but not from Nigeria. But recently I think two months ago we launched the ACCA Nigeria portal. Right now we have some Nigeria employers who are actually listed on the portal already.  And we already have Nigerian members who have uploaded their CVs on the portal. Again it is about providing opportunity and accessibility. Some of these people will never get the opportunity, not that they are not good but to have their CV seen by a global player and for us this is the way to do it.

You said ACCA allows anybody to become a chartered accountant. How?
The ACCA qualification has many different levels. Anybody can become an ACCA qualified professional. We have what people will call entry level, which is called Foundation in Accounting. That is the entry level-1 where you will be expecting 15 to 16 years old. We have people in secondary schools in Nigeria currently doing that. Now what they do is that they get Diploma in Finance, they get Diploma in Management. What that does for them is that it gives them exemption from the main ACCA qualification.

It’s a computer based examination and they can get the certificate as early as one year, and that one year qualification will give them exemptions into the second level. But what that one year does is to give them book keeping knowledge. Now when they finish that, then they have the decision to make if they want to become full fledge accountants or not. So they get exemptions from the first three stages of the ACCA qualification and then they go ahead.

Now the biggest advantage of the ACCA qualification is that we also have, in our ACCA qualification, an agreement with Oxford Brookes University in the U.K. Oxford Brooks is on the top ranked list of the universities in the U.K.  Because our syllabus is so robust, when you finish the second level of the ACCA qualification, you write a thesis that you must submit along with your ACCA result. Once you do that, you get awarded an Oxford Brookes degree. It is not just about submitting, you also have to get a good grade, a first grade or a second grade in your ACCA result, and once you do that, you also get a degree. We have a number of people in Nigeria who have done that and who are gainfully employed today.

So one can get a university degree through ACCA without spending four years in a university?

As I said, because our syllabus is so robust, what Oxford Brookes has done is that they compare it against their own accounting syllabus, and they see that we cover everything. So that is why, instead of you doing your two years accountancy degree Oxford Brooks, they said,   once you finish this syllabus, then you have done our syllabus.

What if the person does not meet the requirements?
They are given an opportunity to re-do the training. It’s just like a university thing, where they say go and rewrite it. But even then it’s not about rewriting and sending, you would need to have a supervisor both in the U.K. and in Nigeria. Because when you sign on with ACCA, you can also indicate on your registration form, that you want to do the Oxford Brookes degree.

Once you have said that, we at ACCA will inform Oxford Brookes, and then they send you a list of requirement, that you have to pass this level, this is what you have to do, you have to write a thousand worded project, and you have to get a supervisor in your country and a supervisor over there. The supervisor will be the one to give you the guidelines and you are to report through the supervisor. It is not about you choosing to write on any topic; it’s based on what you are studying.

How long does  it take to obtain this degree and ACCA qualification?
If you start from the foundation, some people have done it in three years. The beauty about the ACCA qualification which is now going to get better is that, it is very flexible. You can do it when you like. You can do it when you are getting your degree. We have a number of our students in the university who by the time they finish and it all goes well,   they will have their ACCA qualification and will just need the necessary work experience to carry on. At the end of the day, everything depends on the individual, whether you want to read. Though   it seems easy but it is   hard work, because the ACCA syllabus is very wide. People always think that ACCA exams are easy to pass which I find funny. The reason is that you can get access to the tools you need to pass but it is not easy to pass because the ACCA qualification helps understanding and application not theory.

What does ACCA want to achieve in Nigeria and for Nigeria?
I think basically, it is one of our aims to work in the public interest which is accountability at the end of the day; and basically to work in a corporate sector to aid the development of the profession. And also our vision for Nigeria is for us to be able to have finance professionals that will make our country proud,   that you can pick them from here and they go and become CFO of Mobile Australia or Mobile USA,    Basically that is our aim.   Because, it is almost like a brand ambassador, that person started off in Nigeria, get a work through ACCA Nigeria, the person got poached, went through the ranks, because of hard work, dedication, accountability and values, that person moved to BAT America or whatever, that is basically our aim. It is to develop the finance professionals.

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