The apartheid-inspired homeland universities weren’t supposed to teach anything much outside the spheres of teaching, nursing and agriculture. By stimulating the growth of the School of Accountancy on the Turfloop campus, these ideological shackles have been broken, and processes and trends set in motion that will help to correct the cynical racial imbalances that have existed for so long in the world of finance and financial responsibility. Equally cynical was the underlying assumption that black people could neither count nor account. It was Professor Wiseman Nkuhlu, respected South African academic and business leader, who in founding his own audit practice in 1977 first broke the stereotype.

Now, thanks to a partnership between the University of Limpopo and the Nedbank banking group, a fully-fledged School of Accountancy has been established on the university’s Turfloop campus. The Nedbank chair of Accountancy was established in 2009 and by late 2011 the School had been accredited by the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants, only the second so-called Bantustan university to join the ranks of the South African tertiary institutions qualified to prepare students for a career in chartered accountancy.

The need was urgent. Of the 29 000 chartered accountants in the country in 2010 less than five percent of them were black. Added to this serious racial imbalance was the fact that vacancy levels in financial management, particularly in government departments, were standing at over 15 percent.

The occupant of the Nedbank Chair of Accountancy is Cameroonian-born Professor Cosmas Ambe who sees a clear-cut challenge: to uplift black accountants, to increase their numbers, and specifically to counter the negative impacts of pessimism. ‘There’s a syndrome of being African, of being disadvantaged,’ he said once. ‘Too often, it means a lack of discipline and a negative attitude. Anything will do because we’re African. But we have to become advocates of our own importance. We have to take the many challenges on our continent and convert them into advantages. We need to get the confidence – that’s the missing ingredient – to be the best in the world. Then we will be.’

Dr Rueul Khoza, former chairman of Nedbank and the current Chancellor of the University of Limpopo, was instrumental in the establishment of this partnership; ‘Every South African should clearly understand the difference between material monetary capital and intellectual capital,’ he says. ‘It is obviously important that the first form of capital be made accessible. But unless this accessibility is coupled with the development of genuine intellectual capital – including knowledge of how economies work and how capital should be used – there is a grave danger of socio-economic collapse. Surely this is why so many of the Black Economic Empowerment initiatives in our democratic South Africa have failed. The need to develop economic and financial intellectual capital is probably our greatest national need right now; and Turfloop’s School of Accountancy with its nearly 1500 students is in the vanguard of this development effort.’

‘Investing in skills development is a key priority for Nedbank as we believe that it is essential in the socio-economic transformation of our country. We are committed to up-skilling aspiring professionals – especially students who previously had no or limited access to institutions that provided programmes in the financial sphere,’ explains Lindiwe Temba, Executive Head for Corporate Social Responsibility at Nedbank.

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