Liz Fisher, journalist

ACCA’s extensive survey of talent trends in Africa raises worrying indications of a future talent crunch in the profession. According to the report, Africa Talent Trends 2023, rising inflation and the global economic downturn are diminishing the earning power of professionals across the continent, and impeding organisations’ ability to retain talent in a profitable way. The survey also shows that more than 60% of respondents want to move from their current employer and/or location.

The impact of inflation on wages is seen as the biggest workplace concern among respondents

ACCA’s report builds on its Global Talent Trends report, which surveyed 8,405 professional accountants in 148 countries and territories – one of the largest studies carried out across the profession. The global report identifies seven key trends affecting accountants and the businesses that employ them, but the regional reports are invaluable in uncovering specific trends.

Such is the impact of inflation on wages in some African countries – notably Malawi, Nigeria, Ghana and Zimbabwe – that this is seen as the biggest workplace concern among respondents. In addition, 40% of professional accountants in Africa – compared with 26% globally – indicated that the huge cost of gaining a professional qualification was acting as a deterrent to a career in accountancy and finance.

The report notes that professionals in Malawi, Zambia, Uganda, Nigeria and Ghana also considered the lengthy time it takes to gain a professional qualification to be a challenge.

‘Supporting professionalisation may therefore provide employers with an important opportunity to mitigate the impact of inflation while improving workplace productivity and employee satisfaction,’ it suggests.

Good prospects

While affordability was a major concern for all respondents in Africa, the profession remains an attractive option for its long-term career prospects and the opportunity to gain a professionally recognised qualification.

Only 41% said they were satisfied with their current level of remuneration

When asked which factors they considered to be most important in deciding which organisation to work for, respondents identified the chance for developmental opportunities, fair remuneration – only 41% said they were satisfied with their current level of remuneration – and job security as their top considerations.

Overall, the report should ring alarm bells for employers across the continent: 55% of respondents said they are looking to make a move from their current role within 12 months, compared with 44% globally. Of these, 62% said they had plans to move from their current employer, and 44% would consider relocating.

Professionals in Nigeria and Zimbabwe ranked highest in their desire to move within the year, with those in Ghana and Nigeria the keenest to migrate to other locations. Most of those considering a move said they were aiming for a large corporate firm or a Big Four firm; the report suggests that the opportunity for external assignments and international transfers may be a key motivation.

As many as 87% said they would be interested in hybrid work opportunities

The report also reveals that, in marked contrast to many other parts of the world, the number of professionals working on a hybrid basis is diminishing in the wake of the pandemic. More than 70% of professionals in Africa, compared with 57% globally, say that they have returned to fully working from the office (see Figure 2). This is in contrast to India, for example, where 70% of those surveyed were working on a hybrid or fully remote basis.

This return to office-based working comes despite strong indications that professional accountants in Africa would rather work on a remote basis. Of respondents to the survey, 87% said they would be interested in hybrid work opportunities and 73% said they were more productive when working remotely.

Participants in the roundtable discussions which formed part of the research suggested several reasons for the reduction in hybrid working in Africa, including infrastructure constraints, such as unstable electricity and internet services, and poor team-based learning.

‘Opportunities for peer-to-peer learning were considered less frequent, even where teams collaborate well remotely,’ says the report. ‘In environments where professionals of varying levels of experience are expected to engage clients and solve problems collectively, opportunities for coaching and mentoring appear reduced.

‘It seems more people are being empowered to solve problems by themselves, with a higher risk of increased stress and impaired mental health.’

More information

See the global, UK and India survey results