Everything is crumbling: inflation is on the rise; unemployment is through the roof. LinkedIn insists on sending semi-hourly reminders that someone you may know viewed your profile (as if you needed any more anxiety about who may be stalking your spelling errors). You may find yourself wondering if this is the end of the world and letting out a well-practised shrug and associated sigh of resignation … But hold your inhalations – we may have hit rock-bottom in many regards, but that means the only way forward is up
Sometimes you come upon a quote, and it sinks into your subconscious for years, simmering just beneath the surface until a perfect storm of external stimuli erupts into an ‘Aha!’ moment. I distinctly remember reading Mandela’s well-known words on education being ‘the great engine of personal development, through which the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor and the son of mine workers can become the head of the mine’ as a young boy in my grandfather’s office. I also remember the moment I finally saw those words lived out in the midst of the initial 2015 #FeesMustFall protests at Wits University where many NSFAS students articulated their daily struggles in pursuing their degrees along with what it symbolised: a chance at socio-economic mobility unattainable just one generation ago. It’s bewildering to see just what young people are willing to do for an education, even when the employment stakes are stark post-graduation, bringing to mind the Robert Browning line: ‘But a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?’
Much closer to home are awe-inspiring stories from the Thuthuka Fund and other sponsored students, in which CAs(SA) who grew up in townships are now pioneers of innovative solutions, raise capital for the next generation of South African start-ups, and sit on the boards of multinational corporations.
Is there any other profession that so vividly encapsulates the South African dream?
Accountancy often gets represented as some kind of cardboard cube: sturdy, stolid and made of squares. Instead, I firmly believe we have a discipline that demands out-of-the-box thinking whilst integrating globally into every industry. Debits and credits are the bedrock of any business, whether you’re in Cape Town or Kathmandu or living in the year 2100 or 1652. Internally developed AI software for streamlining may soon be all the rage but will still need to be tested annually for impairment, and somebody will need to take care of transfer pricing once we start receiving exports from Mars. It’s clear that chartered accountants are here to stay.
But everything is still crumbling, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. The obstacles are immense and the apocalypse unavoidable. Yet, every year new SAICA members and graduates from a myriad of professions take the stage as scions of their own destiny, shooting upwards to new heights for both themselves and South Africa in a lifelong journey of critical learning − and that is something to celebrate!
Muhammed Ismail Bulbulia CA(SA), Editor at MyCAHub