Preparing Future-Ready Professionals

Collaborating to Attract New Talent to the Profession: Working with Accountancy Education Directors in MENA

Efi Marcou , Helen Partridge, Dana Jensen | November 28, 2022


IFAC, the World Bank and the Arab Federation of Accountants and Auditors (AFAA) hosted a webinar on June 21, 2022 to encourage regional collaboration, foster collaboration with those who influence the accounting education system, and provide access to experts (for more information, see Accountancy Education Ecosystems Are Complex. Our Ability to Attract Potential Accountants Suffers).

As part of a pilot project targeting accountancy education in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), IFAC launched the first bi-annual virtual PAO Knowledge Exchange for Accountancy Education Directors in MENA to provide a forum for conversation amongst peers on the unique challenges and opportunities we face within the profession in the region. The first knowledge exchange in the series, which attracted 125 registrants and 93 live participants, focused on how professional accountancy organizations (PAOs) can address the need for more high-quality professional accountants in MENA.

The session kicked off with a presentation from Ms. Efi M. Marcou, Head of Learning and Development at the Institute of Certified Public Accountants in Cyprus (ICPAC). Efi shared ICPAC’s experiences and initiatives increasing the number of high-quality professional accountants in the jurisdiction. Following the presentation, participants discussed perspectives from their respective countries.


In Cyprus, while the number of graduate accountants increased by 19.5% between 2014-2021, the number of students simultaneously decreased by 28.4%. After acknowledging the challenge at hand, ICPAC decided that it needed to not only increase the number of students in the pipeline, but to also increase the number retained after graduating. To do so, ICPAC first secured a firm strategic commitment from its Board to embed this area of focus in its day-to-day operations. This enabled ICPAC to allocate resources at hand to undertake specific, practical actions targeting tertiary education, secondary education, and the general public as detailed in the slides below.



The full recording of the presentation can be viewed below or at the IFAC YouTube channel

PAOs need to step down and get closer to the stakeholder group that we as a profession are trying to embrace—we must make ourselves visible and accessible to students. We must also keep up to date with current accounting technology to avoid finding ourselves at a disadvantage in the war for talent. Given the rapid digital transformation taking place in the accountancy profession, many PAOs are considering opening their pipelines to candidates with skillsets in areas beyond what the CPA designation currently offers. By starting with targeting high school or secondary school students and drawing on recent high-quality college graduates, PAOs will inevitably be better poised to solidify long-term sustainability well into the future. 

We look forward to enhancing and continuing these engagements!



Efi Marcou

Head of Learning and Development, ICPAC

Efi M. Marcou leads the Learning and Development Unit of ICPAC. In her capacity, she has oversight of ICPAC’s CPD Program, both in terms of regulatory requirements as well as monitoring of enforcement by ICPAC’s Members. Under her supervision, is also the design and implementation of all learning and training activities offered by ICPAC, including the identification and assessment of content and collaboration with leading professional instructors on topics that are deemed fit for Professional Accountants. ICPAC’s Learning and Development Dept. is also responsible for the Joint Examination Scheme (JES) maintained by ICPAC in association with ACCA, including registration of students, exams, syllabi and other requirements, the Approved Employer Scheme and the overall monitoring and implementation of ICPAC’s strategic commitment of providing lifelong learning opportunities to its members. Efi holds a BA from Macalester College, MN, USA in Economics and Communication & Media Studies. She is an ICAEW Fellow Member and a HRDA Certified Trainer for Professional Training & Development. Prior to joining ICPAC, she has worked in the Audit & Assurance Dept. of a Big4 Firm where she got qualified as a chartered accountant, then moved to the Banking Sector and subsequently served as Head of Accounts & Finance in an Electronic Money Institution regulated by the Central Bank of Cyprus. Efi has more than 10 years of teaching experience as Tutor of various ACCA courses and has delivered a number of seminars and trainings on topics such as business coaching, organizational behavior, motivation in the workplace and more.  

Helen Partridge

Director, Accountancy Education

Helen Partridge leads the accountancy education work at IFAC. In this role, she has oversight and leadership of IFAC’s global approach to advancing accountancy education working together with the International Panel on Accountancy Education. Advancing accountancy education is integral to IFAC’s vision of a dynamic, future-focused global profession that is essential to strong, sustainable organizations, financial markets, and economies. Competent and credible professional accountants, committed to lifelong learning, underpin this vision. Prior to joining IFAC, Helen was an accountant in practice, having spent 16 years in audit, advisory and audit systems design in the US and Asia Pacific. She has also served in the controllership at a large multinational transportation company working with GAAP conversions, financial statement preparations and complex and significant transactions such as business combinations and tax planning. In addition, Helen presently serves two not-for-profit boards and is a CPA licensed in multiple states in the United States. See more by Helen Partridge

Dana Jensen

Regional Manager, IFAC

Dana Jensen manages the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and Caribbean regions under the IFAC Member Compliance Program, as well as the IFAC Membership Program, to support the adoption and implementation efforts of international standards and best practices amongst IFAC’s member organizations as well as non-members. Prior to her time at IFAC, Dana was a Policy Coordinator at the United Nations (UN) in the Department for Peacekeeping Operations. She holds an MSc from Columbia University (2011); she is currently Prince Sultan University-Banque Saudi Fransi’s Fellow in Islamic Finance (2021-2023) and is also pursuing a Diploma in Islamic Finance from the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants® (CIMA®) (2023). See more by Dana Jensen


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