SAICA Chairman’s Difference Makers Awards
The 2022 Chairman’s Difference Makers Awards, sponsored by SAPRO, recognises SAICA members who are #differencemakers in various areas of business and society – those who have breached the gap between being good and being excellent.
The awards acknowledge members who make decisions that provide sustained prosperity for all and help shape communities, economies and society while applying the highest standards of ethics, integrity and accountability.
The Leaders in Business award honours CEOs and other leaders for leading and motivating their teams. When leaders invite others to join them on a journey, they do not create followers, but rather build more leaders. Therefore, a business leader develops, influences and leads others to be great.
Ajen Sita, EY Africa’s chief executive officer describes himself as a “home-grown talent of EY.”
He has had a successful 25-year career, having started with the firm as a trainee accountant in 1993 and promoted to Partner in 1999. Subsequently, Ajen has held several leadership positions including head of entrepreneurial services, lead audit partner on Telkom and head of assurance, before becoming a managing partner and CEO of EY Africa in 2010.
Ajen is responsible for the integration of EY across Africa, which is today the most integrated professional services firm in Africa and ensuring this enables the firm to bring a truly borderless approach to clients, as well as provide additional growth and development opportunities for all staff.
Ajen would not necessarily describe himself as a difference-maker. “In fact, I would say that throughout my career, whether it was a young trainee, manager, early-stage partner, leadership roles, or CEO, I have rather been driven by a sense of purpose in the work that I do or in anything that I do. When you are driven by a sense of purpose, you always look to make the circle bigger. So, you don’t look at anything selfishly for yourself or what’s in it for you, but rather how can this be better for the people around you, for the organisation, for the business community, for our country, for our continent. If you expand your own mindset, your own horizon, your own view, and your perspective to something bigger and larger and set yourself ambitious goals. What you’ll find is your energy and motivation for work go up exponentially. The minute you have an unselfish open mindset and you set yourself ambitious and stretching goals, you find that you have a lot of energy for what you do, and you are excited about what you do. That is what makes a difference, for me, for my leadership team and for everyone I interact with.”
Africa is a particular passion and focuses for Ajen and he believes it continues to claim its position as an emerging market with significant potential. As a strong believer in Africa’s potential, Ajen commissioned EY’s first highly acclaimed Africa Attractiveness Survey in 2011 to understand the FDI trends and the relative attractiveness of the various African markets. This annual report has since become a benchmark in the industry. To this end, he is a regular commentator at conferences and in the media on investing in Africa. In his time as CEO, has consistently won several external awards or recognition, including, being ranked in the ‘Top Employers’ top 10 ranking for each of the last 10 years; winner of the gender mainstreaming awards for the contributions by EY to women in leadership and women-owned businesses; and recently, winner of the ‘professional services firm of the year’ award. Ajen is a living embodiment of the EY purpose statement of building a better working world by leading the establishment of two flagship community programmes, EY NextGen and Entrepreneurial Winning Women (EWW).
Ajen’s other passion lies in the transformation of the accounting and auditing profession. This is demonstrated through his role as Chairman of the Thuthuka Education Upliftment Fund which is the body driving the race and gender transformation of the accounting profession in South Africa.
He is also a non-executive board member of Ikusasa Financial Aid Programme, a non-profit organisation that provides higher education funding for disadvantaged students in scarce skills qualifications and was appointed as Professor of Practice at the University of Johannesburg Department of Accountancy in 2019.
For Ajen, it is an incredible privilege to be recognised by his peers for his contribution to the accounting profession by receiving the Leader in Business award. “I am filled with a sense of gratitude to the many people who have supported and mentored me in my career journey.”
Ajen leads a firm that has as its purpose a commitment to building a better working world. “I can’t imagine a more energising environment to be in every day – an environment in which I can live my purpose of making a difference to our people, our clients and society. I truly hope that this award will inspire others to work in the area of their purpose and make a difference to society at large.”
His goal for the future is to continue learning. “EY is an environment where I’ve had the opportunity to just constantly be in a learning environment which is a critical part of my makeup.” Ajen also wants to continue to create diverse experiences. “I want to do different stuff. From the big-picture strategy to the detail of the individual’s experience of EY, I am motivated by this diversity. Continue to coach: both in EY and our communities. I am very focused on that. And then continue to build strong relationships.”