Black African students were the majority
of candidates sitting the South African Institute of Chartered
Accountants (SAICA) final qualifying exams for the first time in

The South African profession has a chronic
skills shortage, which has been attributed in part to dramatic
under-representation of black African accountants.

Of the 200 final examination candidates in
2008, 107 (54 percent) were black African. In 2007, 48 percent of
the 146 candidates were black African.

These percentages are still vastly lower than
the percentage of black Africans in the nation as a whole, which
the US Central Intelligence Agency estimates is 79 percent.

SAICA senior executive for transformation and
growth, Chantyl Mulder, said the 53 percent increase in the number
of black Africans who wrote the examination was particularly

Yet more impressive was the 71 percent pass
rate among black Africans, up from 36 percent in 2007, she

Mulder attributed the 2008 results to a
combination of factors:

• The higher percentage of first-time
candidates writing the examination;

• SAICA’s QE1 Thuthuka Support Programme;

• Support from the SAICA-accredited Accounting
Professional Training programme in the form of extra lectures, mock
exams and group tutorials; and

• SAICA’s ongoing Thuthuka project.

The Thuthuka programme was initiated in 2002
with the aim of growing the number of black African CAs.

“[We] are now, for the first time, witnessing
the fruits of the project. Bear in mind it takes a minimum of seven
years to earn the CA(SA) designation,” Mulder said.

The QE1 Support Programme was introduced in
2007 to help improve the pass rates of black candidates who failed
the first of the professional examinations for the first time.

The support recognises the fact that students
who fail the qualifying exams first time around are more likely to
fail again.

“While the greatest chance of success with QE1
is at the first attempt, the second has the next best probability
of success,” Mulder said. “Thereafter, the chances drop
exponentially, as the learner becomes more and more out of date
with the latest standards and requirements.”