The accounting profession in Zimbabwe has evolved over the years since Zimbabwe had its first black female Chartered Accountant, Mrs Rachel Kupara in the early 80s. Nowadays many students are graduating each year with accounting degrees which are offered at more than seven out of the twenty local universities. The accounting degree is a good stepping stone into the accounting profession. Many aspiring accountants wonder what is the best route to take to be a qualified accountant and this blog will give pointers into how they can achieve that. Here are some of the 10 critical things to know about the accounting profession in Zimbabwe:
#1. The Regulator:
The Public Accountants and Auditors Board (PAAB), was established by the PAA Act (Chapter 27:12), and reports to the Ministry of Finance & Economic Development. The PAAB oversees the regulation of the sector and recognises eight professional bodies as constituent members of the board.
#2. Qualifying Bodies:
You can qualify as an accountant with any one of the following professional bodies:
- Institute of Chartered Accountants (ICAZ),
- Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA),
- Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA),
- Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators (ICSAZ also known as CIS)
- Institute of Certified Public Accountants Zimbabwe (ICPAZ),
- Southern Africa Association of Accountants (SAAA),
- Institute of Certified Tax Accountants of Zimbabwe (ICTA),
- Institute of Administration and Commerce of Zimbabwe (IAC).
#3. Audit v Accounting Only qualifications:
With the first five qualifications mentioned above, one can qualify as an registered public accountant who can provide services to public interest entities (P.I.E.s) and as a registered public auditor through ACCA, ICAZ and ICPAZ. However, to qualify as an auditor, a student needs at least three years’ documented practical audit experience which is obtained either through a private audit practice at any of the “big four,” EY, PwC, KPMG, Deloitte or smaller audit firms; or through public audit practice at the Auditor General’s office. With all qualifications one can become a registered accountant either practising in public, working in a private enterprise or as a tax consultant. CTA is a tax certificate focusing strictly on Zimbabwean and regional (to a lesser extend) tax.
#4. Highly rated qualification:
Employers generally consider the ICAZ qualification as the most superior although in reality all the tier 1 qualifications are highly regarded internationally as they are flexible because they offer a wide range of skills and knowledge from tax, audit, corporate governance and accounting compared to the rest of the qualifications. ACCA, CIMA and ICSA (CIS) are UK headquartered whilst ICAZ is a direct child of UK’s Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW). ICPA is a qualification administered in collaboration with Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Ireland (CPA Ireland) with the rest being local qualifications. ICAZ and ICSAZ are also incorporated through local Acts of Parliament.
#5. Level of entry education:
ICAZ, CPA and CTA are the only strictly post graduate qualifications whilst for the rest one can register as a student with A level results. CTA however, has a diploma certificate which can be awarded to undergraduate students.
#6. Number of member firms:
The PAAB currently has a register of more than 50 (last time PAAB advertised they were more than 65) member firms with most of them offering the full spectrum of services: audit, tax, accounting and business services. This is a huge improvement from 8 or so firms in the early 90s. The “big four” have 80% of the business in relation to audit services provided to listed companies whilst the smaller companies have the rest. Most local firms are now franchising with globally recognised brands to improve their visibility, access global networks and databases for work methodologies and other needs. 8 out of 10 global top accounting brands have franchises in Zimbabwe. The PAAB carries out Audit Practice Reviews on the audit firms as a way of monitoring audit quality standards.
The prominent first local accountants to establish their own firms are:
- Zimbabwe’s first black Chartered Accountant Mr Ngoni Kudenga who established Kudenga&Co in 1981 now known as BDO Zimbabwe,
- Mr Reggie Saruchera who established Camelsa in 1996 which is now known as Grant Thornton Zimbabwe.
#7. Costs of qualifying:
On average the cost of writing all exams for the above mentioned professional bodies is in the range of US$1,500 – $3,000. All professional bodies have annual subscription fees for students and members, with members paying more than students.
#8. Time-frame to qualifying:
On average it takes 3 years to complete the accounting courses. To become a fully fledged member, every student has to complete adequate training with a registered accountant supervising his/her training. Most bodies require 3 years minimum training thus if a student takes 3 years to complete the exams and another 3 years to train; it will take a total of 6 years to qualify as an accountants.
#9. Articles of Clerkship:
Articles of clerkship is a training program administered by ICAZ whereby undergraduate students go through rigorous training and education over a five year course at the end of which if they pass will qualify as a Chartered Accountant. The “big four” companies are the main sponsors of the articles program although of late Grant Thornton Zimbabwe and BDO Zimbabwe have become prominent articles trainers. For undergraduate students, its takes 5 years minimum to qualify.
For postgraduate students, the articles program is three years long and they have to pass ICAZ set exams within a space of 5 years to qualify. Recruitment numbers for articles students peaked in the period 2010 – 2012 but they have since dropped to about 10 students or less per firm per year recently.
#10. Average Salaries:
In the current economic challenges being faced in the country an average qualified accountant in Zimbabwe earns between $1,500 and $2,500 per month according to a 2016 survey done by Industrial Psychology Consultants CEO Mr Memory Nguwi. Internationally a newly qualified accountant earns $30,000 per annum with 10 year fellows racking in $80,000-$100,000 per year. There are vast international opportunities for qualified accountants especially those with audit experience as it is easier to move from the local audit firms to foreign offices through internal transfers and promotions.