Finance and Accounting in the Digital Economy: Opportunities for Africa


Mukoso Eddie-Obiakor | Marketing Manager: East & West Africa | ACCA | |

As the influence of digital transformation continues to weigh on African emerging markets, digital trends and communication platforms are impacting how accounting and finance professionals deal with and manage their businesses.

The recent shift and growth in demand for more developed strategies that will be used to engage customers and stay ahead of the industry have led accounting and finance professionals to reassess and redefine the relevance of their sector in the changing digital economy.

Africa is a melting pot with filled with diverse resources and opportunity.

A changing role

Digitalised information as well as cloud-based business applications are set to dramatically change the role of accountants and other finance professionals over the next 5-10 years.

Granting that technology is a major driver of change for companies and industries today, these changes not only bring up unprecedented challenges but also opportunities that can influence the whole landscape.

According to Steven Cohen, head of Sage One International in a recent interview on It News Africa, “robotic innovations and smart software bots combined with affordable cloud-based softwares will lead to a change in accountant daily tasks.”

To successfully conduct their businesses, accounting and finance businesses will have to understand the predicted expectations of their clients. Digital transformation goes far beyond moving from a traditional economy to a digital economy. It begins with an understanding of digital trends, new technologies, ICT services, cyber policies and many other elements of the internet of things (I.O.T) included in ‘the second machine age’ or ‘fourth industrial revolution’.

Looking at the rising growth of more upgraded multimedia networks and technologies, the digital revolution will bring up a new mindset to which accounting professionals will have to adapt to better themselves and their businesses. As artificial intelligence and robotic innovations increase, so do opportunities for the finance and accounting sector.

Digital support

Previously, the work of accountants and finance professionals require them to mostly capture and update data, produce reports and do bank recons, bookkeeping and other tasks.

Today with the use of smart technologies whether online or mobile, artificial intelligence, opportunities and benefits seems limitless like the increase in productivity, safer working conditions as well as possibilities for accountants to step up and become versed in the new technologies, adding to that is the creation of more high value job resulting from digital transformation.

Cost effective

Digital transformation also bring a cost effective way for accounting experts to provide better advice to their clients while using affordable and smart online accounting systems, e.g.: Quickbooks, Sage.

Time to digitally empower Africa

Adding to the fact that opportunity is also brought up to upscale the workforce, intuitive software paired with artificial intelligence can definitely empower small businesses to go above and beyond tasks usually entrusted to them, thus leading to a wide need for more specialised roles in order to reinvent effective solutions.

Granting that technology driven changes influence the accounting and finance ecosystem, challenges encountered include:

  • Digital technologies are considered highly interdependent: It will definitely require for the experts to expand their skills and adhere to new rules of compliance pertaining to their line of work.
  • Increasing competition from financial technology companies: The increasing popularity of FinTech companies is disrupting the way accounting has been done. This creates a big challenge for accountants because they are not able to adjust quickly to the changes – not just in technology, but also in operations, culture and other facets of the industry.
  • Regulatory pressure: Regulatory requirements continue to increase and professionals will need to spend a large part of their discretionary budget on being compliant and on building systems and processes to keep up with the escalating requirements.

Considering the importance of customer service, consumer expectations continue to rise in the digital age. There is pressure to deliver the level of service that consumers are demanding.

Furthermore, according to Steven Louw, executive director at KPMG, “Adaptability and capacity for personal development will be key going forward, especially taking into account that  technology evolves and workforce behavior continues to change, this mostly due to the influence of technology and social media.”

Smart assistant

Adding to that, earlier this year at the Sage Summit, a smart assistant called Pegg was introduced.

The chatbot, which is the first in the accounting industry, allows users to track expenses and manage finances through messaging apps – which currently boast more than 2 billion users worldwide – such as Facebook Messenger and Slack.

Steven Cohen, in that instance, states that “financial roles are no longer merely to check the numbers and keep the records, but to help the business optimize their finances. This will mean that accountants will have the opportunity to  focus on adding value to the business rather than on time-consuming, compliance-focused tasks such as preparing reports and statements.”

Accounting and finance businesses, looking at the growth of digital revolution, have the opportunity to learn from the experience of frontrunner countries, while designing policies that meet their own needs and fit the local context. In the same line, it will be vital for businesses today to adhere to the new trends and clearly define what truly add value to their businesses.”




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