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Which pandemic-related changes do African finance professionals expect to endure into the long term?

By Andrew Harding, FCMA, CGMA, Chief Executive – MA, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants

Throughout the pandemic, I have been speaking regularly to our members in Africa about the challenges that their businesses and finance teams are facing. Like their peers in other parts of the world, finance professionals in Africa have had to adapt their working practices in response to the pandemic while providing vital support to their organisations during these difficult times.  

Much has changed over these past few months – but which of these changes are temporary and which are likely to remain for the long term? From talking with our members, it seems that the enduring changes are:

  1. Agile working practices

    The largescale shift to remote working that has happened this year has shown the viability of working from home. As a result, more and people in Africa are likely to work from home going forward. This will have a knock-on effect on real estate since there is likely to be a decline in companies renting, purchasing or building large premises. 

  2. Reduced business travel

    The last few months have proven that we don’t need to meet face to face to do business. Video conferences, audio calls and online collaboration tools can enable us to work effectively with colleagues, customers and business partners. Companies are therefore expecting to significantly reduce their travel and entertainment expenditure going forward.

  3. Focus on ethics

    The pandemic has highlighted the importance of ethics and good corporate governance, since incidents of corruption and fraud are on the rise. Also, where companies are struggling, there may be cases where people are trying to manipulate the financial statements to show good results. Accountants can support organisations by remaining vigilant and making sure that their colleagues – both in the finance function and throughout the organisation – understand the ethical standards expected of them. 

  4. Greater demand for cashflow modelling

    While cashflow modelling has always been important, its value has been even more evident during the pandemic. So, finance teams are looking to continually improve their cashflow modelling by adopting sophisticated tools that give them greater visibility around the performance of the business. 

Of course, the changes highlighted by our African members don’t just apply to them – they also apply to our other members across the globe. The trends I’ve outlined here are not simply going to evaporate when the world becomes more ‘normal’ again. A new reality for finance professionals has emerged.