Talking Heads Q&A

Allinial Global advances accounting quality in Africa

In IAB’s June Talking Heads cover story, Zoya Malik, Editor-in-Chief, Financial Services Practice, GlobalData met Allinial Global’s Mark Koziel, President and CEO, Ozgur Demirdoven, EVP, Global Commerce and Luca Traini, Regional Director Africa to find out about the association’s spread and reach across Africa and their activities at ACOA’s pan-Africa conference 2023 in Abidjan.

Mark Koziel, President and CEO, Allinial Global

Ozgur Demirdoven, Executive Vice President, Global Commerce, Allinial Global

Luca Traini, Regional Director, Africa, Allinial Global

Zoya Malik (ZM): What were Allinial Global’s (AG) objectives at ACOA’s pan-Africa conference 2023?

Mark Koziel (MK), Ozgur Demirdoven (OD) & Luca Traini (LT): Allinial Global was a proud sponsor of ACOA 2023, with EVP of Global Commerce Ozgur Demirdoven and Regional Director of Africa Luca Traini attending personally in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire.

Our objectives were to:  

  • Show continued support for the Pan African Federation of Accountants (PAFA) to advance accounting quality in Africa  
  • Improve brand awareness about Allinial Global, specifically in Africa  
  • Showcase our presence in Africa through our member firms 
  • Recruit additional top-quality members

Our participation in the conference and commitment to empowering Africa were warmly welcomed. The positive feedback we received from participants reaffirmed our belief in the importance of working internationally and developing business relationships in Africa and beyond.

ACOA 2023 shed light on debates about the transformation of African economies, equity, wealth redistribution, and sustainable development efforts. The conference emphasised the need to address power imbalances, fiscal transparency, and tax contributions, as well as Africa's growth potential and steps to maximise it. It also highlighted the challenges of digitalisation and sustainability.

In keeping with our award-winning commitment to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion, Allinial Global attended the event with a diverse team. We would like to thank Eric Konan, Armelle Dassi, and everyone at our Côte d'Ivoire member Evolutis for their tremendous support during the event.

ZM: What is AG’s presence in Africa and what are your plans for onboarding new members in 2023/ 2024? What strengths will these members bring?

OD & LT: AG started its Africa journey in 2018, and within five years we have covered roughly 30% of the continent’s geography—15 of 54 countries—and become the 4th largest association in Africa on our way to Top 3. We aim to be the leading accounting and advisory association in Africa while celebrating our 10th anniversary on the continent.

Often the largest indigenous firms in their regions, our members are chosen with great care. Indigenous firms are true to their regions, providing best-in-class service but also recognising the need to offer current and future clients a global solution.

With onboarding, we are strategic. 

  • During 2023/24 we aim to expand our footprint into Mozambique, Namibia, Algeria, Cameroon, Senegal, and Seychelles.  
  • We are highly intentional about recruiting, engaging only with prospects who will benefit from membership and want to contribute to Africa’s growth through participation. It is not simply to put a flag on the map.

Another key issue is gender diversity and empowering women in African economies, so we are working to address these barriers and actively promote opportunities for women. After securing a seat for Africa on our EMEIA Regional Board, for example, we welcomed successful African businesswoman Jennifer Reddy, Managing Partner of South African member Morar Incorporated, to the board. She is a great mind and contributor to our organisation.

ZM: How well do member firms collaborate on referrals and lead generation across Africa’s regions?

OD & LT: Africa is full of untapped opportunities. ACOA 2023 emphasised that Africa's potential to become a major player in the global economy must be recognized and nurtured. We believe in the continent's capacity for growth and support African businesses in reaching their full potential, so Allinial Global continues to invest in Africa and encourage collaboration among member firms.

AG Africa has an African Commerce Community, represented by every African member. At the quarterly meeting, members discuss strategies to increase collaboration on the continent and often tender jointly on assignments in multiple countries or on resource sharing when presenting themselves.

All our firms in Africa are proficient in English and can communicate easily with each other when collaborating on referrals.

Every two years we host an AG Africa meeting in an African country to ensure African members are familiar with each other and well-informed about each firm’s strengths.

ZM: What are the challenges in delivering high quality audits in line with auditing standards across Africa?

LT: All our firms are quality control verified at the application stage, giving our membership confidence when sending referrals within and into Africa.

With inter-firm sharing of best practices and technical support, AG Africa member firms can overcome difficulties in meeting audit standards. Training is an integral part of our member firms’ practice management, as well as a basis for collaboration.

ZM: What are the regulatory challenges and what are the national regulators doing to raise auditing standards within Africa?

MK, OD & LT: Consistency across Africa is a challenge. Conference attendees also highlighted the issue of financial transparency, questioning where money flows and what happens with tax contributions. Allinial Global acknowledges the importance of transparent financial systems and the role they play in fostering trust and driving economic growth. By working with African governments and businesses, we aim to promote accountability and responsible financial practices.

Professional organisations like PAFA, with a membership of 56 Professional Accounting Organisations (PAOs) in 45 African countries, are tackling the challenge of enhancing the quality of accounting services in Africa. We have pledged our support to PAFA in this process, offering resources to support their objective of creating an African Forum of Quality Firms. These initiatives, ranging from webinars and training to reviews, will be available to African accountants through their respective PAOs. Allinial Global is proud to be a part of this journey.

Quality monitoring is a cornerstone of audit quality, but individual African countries struggle to create their own quality monitoring programs. This is where PAFA can assist with overall coordination and help the individual member bodies establish a consistent program. We have had early discussions to help where we can.

ZM: Where is most business demand coming from for African accounting firms, local or international clients?

OD & LT: Our referral tracking shows most referrals coming into Africa from international clients.

Although we have a great spread of referrals, most are destined for Nigeria, South Africa, and Kenya (the gateway for East African countries).

It is important to underline that while membership in an international association can be a key driver in the success of audit and accounting firms, the initial investment can often be a barrier to entry, limiting diversity in the profile of firms that join.

ZM: How is the need for digitising businesses supported by local infrastructure within Africa’s developing economies? What more is needed?

OD & LT: Digitisation emerged as a crucial topic during the conference. While Africa has embraced digital technologies, there is still much to be done. Recognising the importance of digitalisation, we stand ready to support African businesses in overcoming obstacles, leveraging technology, and harnessing its potential for growth.

Lack of connectivity remains a challenge in digitising business. However, large amounts of money are being spent to improve infrastructure, and improvement of digital software is also aiding this move. The cost for software, often USD denominated, is a challenge that should be given more thought—perhaps bulk deals through country-specific PAOs.

ZM: How is AG supporting its members in growing new service lines and reaching new markets within Africa and overseas?

MK, LD & LT: The conference theme “How to Transform African Economies to Be More Equitable?” emphasised the urgency of redistributing wealth and promoting fairness in African economic systems. We believe in the power of collaboration and inclusivity to achieve these goals. By engaging with African economies and providing resources, Allinial Global can help drive the necessary changes and create a more level playing field for firms to achieve sustainable development.

A big drive from Allinial Global is outsourcing—both being able to execute tasks in a lower-cost country in Africa, and African members being able to tender for work that requires the expertise of a larger international AG member. This is promoted at all AG conferences and frequently discussed by members.

We have several international communities that African members can join to increase their exposure to new business lines, including Driving Global Commerce, Global Forensics, Global Tax, Global Oil and Gas, Global Cybersecurity Advisory Services, and Global ESG, to name a few.

Ensuring that our firms provide quality work is paramount to our success for referrals entering Africa. We’ve had several successes, and our member firms in other markets provide constant feedback to ensure quality. IFAC’s Forum of Firms is a requirement for work involving the World Bank and U.S. Aid, which, unfortunately, prevents small, quality firms in associations from participating, even though the level of quality is there.

By embracing collaboration, inclusivity, and strategic partnerships, Allinial Global paves the way for a more prosperous future for its members in Africa and beyond.

Main image: Pat Kramer, Global CEO, BDO