x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Many Afghans but few to keep the books

The Life: Afghanistan is slowly rebuilding its infrastructure after years of neglect and conflict. But to rebuild its economy it will need accountants. It only has about 15 today.

The accounting profession in Afghanistan is at a beginning stage and people do not have proper books of account. Shah Marai / AFP
The accounting profession in Afghanistan is at a beginning stage and people do not have proper books of account. Shah Marai / AFP

Afghanistan has a population of about 30 million, but only about 15 of those people are qualified accountants, says Khalid Maniar, the founder and managing partner of Horwath Mak, a Dubai business consultancy that has an office in Afghanistan. Mr Maniar discusses why Afghanistan must attract more accountants.

Why was an event held in Dubai this year to discuss the status of the accountancy profession in Afghanistan?

The event was held by ACCA [the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, a] professional body. They were trying to create awareness about the accountancy profession in the developing world.

What did it conclude?

It concluded that [there was] the need for people to come forward and learn about accountancy, and perhaps they should stay in their country rather than migrating outside after learning, because the profession in Afghanistan is at a beginning stage. People don't have proper books of accounts, and they don't understand what books of accounts should be.

How many qualified accountants are there in Afghanistan?

There are very few at the moment, like about 15. All of them are in Kabul and a few of them also [do work] in some other cities. Very few of them are Afghanis. There is definitely a need for accountants … We have our own office there. We opened it last year.

Why?

There are opportunities that I see. [We could get] more sophisticated assignments, which we could not otherwise put our hands on in a more developed [place] like Dubai, because these audit things mostly go to the big four [firms of PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, Ernst & Young, and KPMG], so there is a good scope there.

The bulk of your firm's work is focused on audits and taxes. How busy is the office?

It took us about six months or so to complete our administration and things, but now we are gaining momentum and more work is coming, so we are getting busy.

What sort of difficulties are you facing there?

People are not so accounts-minded, and at the end of the year … [books] require a lot of attention.

How established is the profession in Afghanistan?

From the professional point of view, a few years ago the momentum [began], and I think there are more accounts-minded [people now]. The banks are insisting that companies should have their balance sheets before they can agree the credit facility for them.

Are there accountancy training programmes there at the moment?

Yes, there is an American university. There are at least a couple of universities I know about.

If Afghanistan cannot attract enough people to enter the profession, what will happen?

There will be growth, I'm sure, because more business will be there and people will have no choice but to have more accounts-minded people. More people will see the rewards and they will come forward.

* Gillian Duncan

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