Trust your knowledge | ACCA magazine: AB Direct11.10.2013

Accounting for International Development (AfID) is one organisation demonstrating the true value and wide appeal of public sector accountants, placing more and more in volunteer positions supporting charities across Africa and Asia.

AfID specialises in sending accounting professionals to coach and mentor local staff at community projects around the world, enabling ACCA qualified accountants to use what AfID sees as ‘vital public sector experience’  to help those in need.

One of these accountants, Louise St Louis, was working as an assistant financial accountant with the NHS before embarking on a three week volunteer placement with Concordis International in South Sudan; a charity that works impartially alongside those involved in, or affected by, armed conflict. 

She said it’s normal to have doubts about your skills, but her qualification meant she needn’t have worried.

'Despite being qualified, the task initially seemed a bit daunting. You always second guess your ability to perform in a new environment. It has similarities to starting a new job; however, you can always rely on the basics taught at ACCA. You have to believe in your ability, believe that the qualification you’ve got is top-class and it will become the core of whatever you are doing out there.'

Jacqueline Evans, another public sector accountant, agrees that an ACCA Qualification stood her in good stead for her voluntary placement. She spent four months at VSO in Ghana, a global international development organisation.

'The ACCA Qualification is what opens the door in the first instance. Without this the opportunity would have never arisen. The qualification brings with it a certain positive expectation that instils confidence.'

Jacqueline found her accounting qualification specifically transferable for certain aspects of her placement.

'Tax training enabled me to research and gain a full understanding of the Ghanaian tax legislation which, in turn, enabled me to set up and implement a payroll system and provide tax training for local employees. In addition, knowing the logistics of how to carry out an audit was very useful.'

Whilst different sectors inevitably lead to varying working environments, the core skills you’ll learn in your profession, such as accountancy, will always remain the same. A concept that Jacqueline agrees with:

'Go for it. You will be surprised at the amount of skills you didn't even know you had.'

Louise also encourages others who have thought about volunteering to trust their skills and knowledge.

'You have to believe in your ability. If there are any ACCA qualified accountants working in the public sector that are considering volunteering, my advice is to take the plunge - You’ll actually come back with more transferrable skills than you went out there with!'

Anita Brook, also a public-sector worker, travelled for two weeks to COYIDA in Malawi, a charitable organisation that works to end poverty in communities. She believes that any ACCA qualified accountant has the skills required to be a success.

'NGOs in the developing world often need basic skills training and much of my ACCA training and aspects I took for granted were instantly transferable. There really was no need to worry.'

Louise, Jacqueline and Anita all took breaks in their public sector careers to volunteer with AfID, experiencing first-hand the value and transferability of their ACCA accounting skills. 

If you would like to follow in their footsteps, please visit the AfID websiteand contact AfID on +44(0)2087417000 or e-mail