Technology is transforming traditional audit and enhancing quality of risk assessment in Africa
ICEAW (the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales) organized a Pan-Africa webinar on 30 March 2021 to discuss how technological advances are progressing at an exponential pace in Africa and transforming traditional audit practices. The online event saw the panel of business leaders share insights, knowledge, and views on the future of the accountancy profession in a world where digital technologies are transforming business models, industry sectors, and the workplace.
The leaders acknowledged that the digital transformation heralds a new era of innovation, especially in improving the quality of risk assessment in Africa but a critical significant challenge, element of all financial statement audits remains. The panelists included David Matthews, President, ICAEW, Chemutai Murgor, CFO & Finance Director, Standard Chartered Bank, Kenya, Catherine Musakali, Founder of Dorion Associates & Corporate Governance Consultant, Kenya, Walter Muwandi, CEO, CCG Systems, South Africa, Dr. Reynolds T Muza, Senior Partner, Harare Ralph Bomment Greenacre & Reynolds, and Ede Dafinone, Deputy Managing Partner, Crowe Dafinone and ICAEW Council Member for Africa.
According to these respectable business leaders, the automation of audit processes, such as data analysis, will lead to greater consistency and give more opportunities to identify business risks. This will allow better planning of audit activities, especially during the current global crisis. They applauded governments’ efforts to support the development of innovation and technology by providing the required digital infrastructure. However, while many African nations are embracing digital transformation, the panelists agreed that the adoption of disruptive technology has had a major impact on the workforce across the continent and that care should be taken to not make many jobs redundant.
“Technology is transforming the accountancy profession. Automation technologies, in particular, will change the role of chartered accountants. As technology’s influence in the working world spreads, accountants will have to diversify their skills, and an increased focus on advisory skills will mean that accountants will often find themselves acting as the broker between technical experts and clients,” said David Matthews, ICAEW President.
The speakers advised audit firms in Africa to invest in digital initiatives, such as AI, blockchain, cybersecurity, and developments in data capabilities noting that investment in these initiatives will equip accounting professionals with the capability to expand their assurance services to deal with the new technology-driven risks that their clients face and safeguard their digital assets.
“In the coming decades, intelligent systems will take over more and more decision-making tasks from humans. While accountants have been using technology for many years to improve productivity and deliver more value to businesses, this is an opportunity to reimagine and radically improve the quality of business and investment decisions,” said Michael Armstrong, FCA and ICAEW Regional Director for the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA.)
They further highlighted how the rapid growth in technology has automated many compliance elements of accountancy but increased complexity and risk and called for the creation and promotion of standards for how technological tools should be developed and implemented to reduce risk and make sure that benefits, such as ensuring achievement of reduction of the efforts needed whilst increasing productivity. They also advised that audit teams need to be properly equipped with experts on different software applications and platform technologies to be able to inform clients on the strengths of their security.
The webinar was attended by over 250 professional accountants, ICAEW students, and members, as well as members of other professional bodies across Africa including the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN), Institute of Chartered Accountants of Zimbabwe (ICAZ), Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ghana (ICAG), the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Kenya (ICPAK), and the Pan African Federation of Accountants (PAFA).