ACCA South Africa

Regarded as the world’s most forward-thinking professional accountancy body, the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) was founded in 1904 and works to strengthen a global profession based on the application of consistent standards, which it believes best supports international business and the desire of talented people to have successful, international careers


“We champion the needs of small- and medium-sized business (SMEs) and emerging economies, and promote the value of a sustainable business.

“To achieve this, we work with global bodies such as the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) and with more than 80 global accountancy partnerships.

Above all, we seek to bring long-term value to economies in which we develop and support professional accountants,” says Pat Semenya, Head of ACCA South Africa.

The company supports its 198 000 members and 490 000 students in 180 countries, helping them to develop successful careers in accounting and business, with the skills needed by employers.

Additionally, they work through a network of ACCA 92 offices and centres and more than 8 500 approved employers worldwide, who provide high standards of employee learning and development.

“ACCA works in the public interest, assuring that its members are appropriately regulated for the work they carry out and promoting principles-based approaches to regulation,” Semenya says.

A global network

Over the years, ACCA has built a hugely successful global network and Semenya explains that the partnerships they have forged and maintained are central to their ability to deliver their qualifications and services internationally, enabling students from all over the world to study for the ACCA Qualification.

“As an example, we have 17 joint exam partnerships with national accountancy bodies around the world that allows their trainees to qualify using the ACCA Qualification structure. Our partnerships allow our members to work internationally, complying with regulation in marketplaces worldwide,” she explains.

The value of an ACCA Qualification

ACCA aims to offer business-relevant, first-choice qualifications to people of application, ability and ambition around the world who seek a rewarding career in accountancy, finance and management, Semenya explains.

“ACCA South Africa provides services and support to ACCA members, students and affiliates throughout South Africa, contributes to the development of the accounting profession, skills development in the finance and accountancy sector, raises awareness of ACCA’s qualifications with potential students and employers and facilitates educational opportunities in accountancy and related fields,” she says.

ACCA’s mission is to be a global leader in the profession by:

  • Providing opportunity and open access to people of ability wherever they are in the world.
  • Supporting and promoting the highest ethical, governance and professional standards.
  • Advancing public interest.
  • ACCA has consistently held its unique core values: opportunity, diversity, innovation, integrity and accountability.

“We believe that accountants bring value to economies in all stages of development. We aim to develop capacity in the profession and encourage the adoption of global standards.

Our values are aligned with the needs of employers in all sectors and we ensure that, through our qualifications, we prepare accountants for business. We seek to open up the profession to people of all backgrounds and remove artificial barriers, innovating our qualifications and their delivery to meet the diverse needs of trainee professionals and their employers,” Semenya states.

The role of innovation and research

Innovation is one of the company’s core values, in fact, Semenya says it’s central to the global success of the ACCA.

“We put our values into practice so we’re regularly the first in the profession to introduce new products and services and showcase new research and policies.

“As an example; the launch of the ACCA-X product in 2015 meant a career in accountancy is even more accessible. ACCA-X is a combination of free and affordable digital courses leading to our professional qualification. This addresses the issue of access to quality education for those that are in areas of our country that—for varied reasons—do not have access to institutes of higher learning,” she says.

She elaborates, saying that in South Africa, all their skills and knowledge level exams are online, meaning that students across the globe take the same exam. This talks directly to the global standard in terms of the level and quality of their qualifications.

ACCA also places a great deal of emphasis on research and Semenya says they actively seek to enhance the public value of accounting in society through international research.

“We take a progressive stance on global issues to ensure accountancy as a profession continues to grow in reputation and influence.

“Our research also drives the continuous development of the content of our qualification, ensuring that relevance in the marketplace across all sectors and economies,” she says.

Successes and achievements

ACCA has enjoyed a number of achievements over the years. Semenya says that, “Top of mind is the WITS University Postgraduate Diploma in Specialised Accountancy aligned to the ACCA professional level qualification launch in 2017. This is a first of its kind on the continent.

“This qualification seeks to provide a unique strategic opportunity for accountancy students to achieve the highest standards in their professional development for a career in accounting, business leadership and finance.”

In the same year, they hosted their very first public sector conference, which attracted over 100 senior public sector attendees from around the world. The theme of the conference was centred on their research document, “50 drivers of change in the public sector”.

“Our coming together at the ACCA public sector conference has been an important step in initiating change. It is vitally important that finance professionals in this key sector gather together to discuss issues and to understand where the profession is heading. It allowed us to understand the bigger picture and see where we fit in. But most importantly, it has allowed us to learn from each other.

“It is an exciting time to be a professional accountant in the public sector. There is a huge opportunity to help shape the public services of the future, achieving value for money and long-term sustainability,” she says.

Education and career journey

Pat Semenya comes from an accountancy background, which is complemented by Masters Studies in Business Administration.

When she joined ACCA South Africa in 2015, she had a combined 16 years of experience in the local public sector and multinational private sector organisations.

She spent ten of these years in senior management roles, where her area of focus was largely on organisational value chain management and strategy. The combination of her academics, experience and character affords her the competence to lead across all functional streams within an organisation.

“Interestingly though, what has always been an underpinning driver throughout my career, irrespective of my role, was the value of leaving a legacy through education.

“I am passionate about inclusive and equitable quality education. The importance of promoting lifelong learning and transmitting adequate knowledge not only to the next generation of professionals but also inspiring others to discover their purpose and potential has always been high on my agenda,” she says.

In terms of what excites her most about her current role and maintaining her passion on a daily basis, Semenya says that part of her growth strategy includes for ACCA South Africa to be admitted and recognised by all sector regulators that are prevalent in the country.

“This will afford our students and members the value and status they are privileged to on a global scale.

“The interaction and the ACCA ambassador role that I default to when engaging with various statutory bodies across the country have been a testing yet exciting. I can see the value that ACCA can bring to the local market, as an organisation we have also learned a lot over the years and I got to appreciate the richness of our country’s regulatory structures.

“The idea that the recognition for the need of an open and inclusive profession exists, drives me,” she enthuses.

A question of leadership

Semenya explains that a remarkable amount of resources has been devoted to the study of leadership, but despite all this research, there is little agreement about what exactly leadership is.

“I come from a school of thought that’s pegged on “inspirational” leadership, and this on its own is a broad subject,” she says.

She highlights one trait that has been instrumental in her leadership roles over the years and that has continued to yield success: inspiring action.

“I have found that once my team has a clear understanding of what the organisation is seeking to achieve, with defined roles, responsibility, and timelines, my experience has been that the team is inspired to deliver on their mandate.

“I have also found that an informed decision that is made timeously inspires action from my team, especially in the highly regulated environment wherein ACCA South Africa operates,” she says.

With regard to successfully balancing her work and private life, Semenya says it’s not always smooth sailing.

“Being a married woman with two daughters in primary school, a dog and a career—it’s a lot of hats that I wear on a daily basis,” she says.

“However, I am privileged to have an established support structure and a husband that is hands-on with our daughters, who appreciates and supports the pressures that come with my career.

“Sundays are generally exclusive to the family and we have somehow devised a schedule for our “shut down” time to coincide with our children’s school breaks, this is when we enjoy time away as a family and we get to connect and experience quality personal time.

“Over the years, I have learnt to allow myself personal time and not feel guilty about it. I have grown to listen to the demands of my body and enjoy my own company. Depending on what I am going through, sometimes a couple of hours are good enough to just let me be and to recharge,” she concludes. 

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