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A case study on SAICA’s activities to advance diversity in the accountancy profession in South Africa

South Africa's unique history and its associated challenges have resulted in certain demographic groups previously having limited opportunities to enter the accountancy profession. Addressing this requires a sustained, long-term effort spanning many years, to which the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) is fully committed. Attractiveness and transformation of the profession are integral to SAICA’s 2024 – 2028 strategy as it strives to increase access, diversity, and inclusivity to ensure the profession is more representative of the country.

To share how SAICA is making progress through specific targeted initiatives, Robert Zwane, SAICA’s Executive Director: Learning, Development and National Imperatives, presented to IFAC’s Professional Accountants in Business (PAIB) Advisory Group during its recent meeting in Cape Town.

Robert started by highlighting the historical context and scale of SAICA’s challenge in levelling the diversity of the profession so that it better reflects the country’s population. Comparing South Africa’s economically active population (EAP) with SAICA’s register of over 52,000 chartered accountants (CAs) revealed large disparities in 2023. Notably:

  • 81% of the EAP was African, compared to only 18% of CAs,
  • Only 8% of the EAP was white yet accounted for 64% of CAs.

Closing these gaps requires action at all education levels, beginning early at the school level, and continuing through undergraduate and postgraduate studies, all the way to the CA training programs themselves.

Investment at the school level is important, and SAICA’s actions include increasing visibility on the ground to help raise awareness and promote career opportunities with greater focus on promoting mathematics as a gateway subject to occupations in high demand. Forming strategic partnerships has also been critical, for example with the department of education.



At a university level, SAICA through the Thuthuka Education Upliftment Fund administers a bursary program, providing funding to students to study accounting, focusing specifically on under-represented racial groups. 

The Thuthuka Bursary

The Thuthuka Education Upliftment Fund (TEUF), established in 2002 operates the Thuthuka Bursary, which aims to transform the demographics of the profession to reflect those of South Africa in terms of race and gender, and provide educational support to learners and students from previously disadvantaged backgrounds for the benefit of the profession, while simultaneously helping to uplift communities.

SAICA student network

SAICA operates the Thuthuka Bursary in partnership with donors, academic institutions, and employers. Bursaries are awarded to students from disadvantaged communities to study for an undergraduate BCom Accounting and the Postgraduate Diploma in Accounting degrees at one of the twelve Thuthuka-approved academic institutions. Following their studies, students are then allocated to an employer to provide the work experience necessary to complete their practical training.

Thuthuka’s success over the last 20 years is rooted in its integrated and holistic approach to student support, which factors in both financial and psycho-social considerations. Going beyond merely increasing diversity in the pipeline; it focuses on creating an environment where under-represented groups can succeed in their studies, qualify as an accountant, and prepare for the workplace.

READ MORE about Thuthuka here: Thuthuka | SAICA

The impact of SAICA’s initiatives, including the Thuthuka bursary, is evident from the data on chartered accountants (CAs) under the age of 35. Comparing the data in 2002, when the TEUF was first established, to now in 2024 shows significant progress in levelling the diversity of the profession. Key changes include:

  • An increase of African CAs under 35 from only 3% in 2002 to 31% in 2024.
  • A decrease in white CAs under 35 from 86% to 46%.

Other initiatives aimed at encouraging young people to join the profession and showcasing young SAICA trainees and members who are making a difference in their communities include:

  • Youth Campaign
    • The campaign’s objectives were to position the profession as purpose-led and promote young SAICA stakeholders (including trainees, young members & associates) as Difference Makers who drive positive change in societies and economies. The initiative focused on youth related matters, to ignite inspiration and encourage young individuals to become Difference Makers and future members of SAICA. 
    • Channels: Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Google Ads, Student portal, School Communicator (D6)
    • Performance: The edutainment content reached a total of over 130k views on the SAICA YouTube., these are the highest viewed videos on SAICA’s YouTube with an average of 10k views per video. TikTok was the best performing advertising platform 0,24% click-through rate which surpassed industry benchmark of 0,15%.
  • Trainee Trailblazers
    • Trainee Trailblazers is a SAICA initiative that offers trainees over 11 hours of engaging discussions on crucial topics for their future success, including digital acumen, ethics, corporate citizenship, decision-making, business acumen, relational skills, and lifelong learning. The Trainee Trailblazers competition recognizes and celebrates outstanding achievements, fostering a culture of continuous professional development and competencies among trainees.
  • Top 35-under-35 awards
    • These elite awards recognize 35 exceptional chartered accountants under the age of 35, who are not just excelling in their professional careers but are also making significant contributions to their communities and the broader economy. They are the leaders, innovators, and change-makers, embodying the values of excellence, integrity, and vision that SAICA stands for.

SAICA’s initiatives have diversified entry into the accounting profession in South Africa and can serve as inspiration to other PAOs globally for improving access to, and the longevity of, the profession.

Read more from the PAIB Advisory Group and on the attractiveness of the profession.

Laura Takamizawa
Laura Takamizawa

Principal, IFAC

Laura Takamizawa is a Principal in IFAC's thought leadership team, focusing on initiatives in support of finance and accounting professionals working in business and the public sector. She was previously an Audit Manager at Grant Thornton, specializing in public sector audit in the UK, and prior to that worked for the Audit Commission. She also spent a year on secondment to the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC), where she was responsible for managing their public sector and business network programs.

Laura is a member of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA), and holds a Bachelor of Science (Hons) degree in Mathematical Physics from the University of Nottingham (UK).