The fact remains that training people to acquire the necessary future skills is essential. We need to have people equipped to not only do their work effectively but also to compete globally. However, skills alone are not enough – experience matters.

By Dzingira Matenga, MD, chief financial officer and enterprise value for Accenture in Africa

Experience in the finance field, for instance, is imperative, and after formal qualifications, professional experience is one of the main ingredients to career advancement. But experience is broader than just working for several years and many long hours as a finance professional.

A global economy needs professionals who have increased regional and international exposure. This is now a greater possibility given the advent of remote working as well as the existence of many corporates in South Africa that have links to all of sub-Saharan Africa as well as multiple international markets. Most South African miners have links to Australia and South America. Our largest banks have huge exposure to every African region. Fund and wealth managers are now domiciled in London. Our biggest Telcos are in the Middle East. The list is endless and so too are the exposure and experience opportunities.

Do we have the technology to enable increased exposure and experiences?

Through advancements in technology, the growth of the internet and social media, the world becomes more connected. Ideas, approaches and even skills can now be shared globally. International experience allows people to learn about cultures, ideas, values, beliefs and religions practised by people worldwide. They can broaden their worldview, add to their personal development, and be part of a global community.

The power and value of an international experience comes from how much you immerse yourself in it. The goal is to go beyond mere exposure to cultures, ideas and experiences and understand them more deeply.

This will broaden your global perspective and contribute to becoming a more well-rounded person and an attractive candidate for further education and employment.

In South Africa we have access to the right technologies, and many of these technologies are now deployed via the Cloud. Specifically in finance, it’s been proven in the way Africa’s banking sector has easily rolled out mobile money apps and digital banking solutions. South Africa itself has one of the highest financial inclusion metrics, especially across Africa and this is enabled by various technologies from the most basic such as SSID right through to e-wallets and apps.

The technology is available. The question is around building a suitable business case to deploy the technology and around finance professionals leveraging it to increase exposure and experiences in different operating markets. For years, finance professionals have been resistant to embrace new technologies because ten years ago, the technology ROI was very low. It was unclear how it relates to customer growth and the bottom line. Now it is easier to measure and unlock the business relevance of technology.

Do we have a skills shortage in South Africa?

In South Africa, it is infrequent, if ever, that we hear of a building that has collapsed due to bad engineering, planes collided at an airport due to poor navigation systems or planning, a botched medical operation occurred due to underqualified medical professionals, or that a cashier charged you twice for an item because the point-of-sale system did not work well in a store.

Most people have the skills and generally know how to do their job professionally and my belief is that “skills shortage” is a stick that is used to unfairly caricature our local workforce, young people and new entrants into the labour market.

Now the question is if people – and finance professionals in particular – have the skills required to contribute more effectively to our economy, why do we still battle with low growth rates and high unemployment?

The problem is undoubtedly experience. Many of us have not worked in different environments, industries, provinces, or countries. South Africans tend to stay home, stick to one sector and get stuck in one type of job or career pathway, without exploring other options.

A varied job experience gives you a diverse skill set that can make you valuable to an employer – especially in industries where your co-workers have a narrow area of expertise. A person who has worked in different environments can apply different thinking and fresh perspectives when required.

Your experience can be a goldmine of information to a new employer, particularly if you’re moving to a small company from a larger one. Your knowledge of best work practices brings IP that you and your new employer can monetise immediately. Varied experiences allow you to fail fast and succeed quicker in the future

Finally, anything that adds to your education and experience improves your resiliency in the face of unknown challenges and sparks the creation of solutions that may be known in one industry and not the other. Applying creative solutions to new problems from one environment to another is usually the key to success and will unlock the innovation, growth and efficiencies we want for our businesses in SA and all of Africa.