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Michelle Esau | 21 February 2023

There are worsening socio-economic conditions for the working class and marginalised poor communities. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

We were forced, during the difficult lockdowns of the Covid-19 pandemic, to pause and reflect on how we do things. Certainly, at the Faculty of the Economic and Management Sciences at the University of the Western Cape (UWC), it brought home the need to be agile and innovative while being compassionate.

As we head into the 2023 Budget Speech this week, the outlook for the year ahead is grim.

Each time the Reserve Bank meets, the nation holds a collective breath in anticipation of a repo rate hike that ultimately affects the consumer. In the case of home loans and mortgages, consumers are feeling the effects of rising inflation, interest rate hikes and the impact it has on food, fuel and household items.

Add to this cocktail of the high rate of unemployment – youth unemployment, in particular – exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic because we were already in an economic downward trajectory before the pandemic.

Just as we started to adopt a more positive outlook coming out of the pandemic, we were hit in a very serious way by the energy crisis. It is not new, but the situation has regressed in the past few months. In the Western Cape, we are also faced with a water crisis.

If middle-class citizens are struggling, imagine how the poor and marginalised struggle to put food on the table and find enough money to get to work with rising costs of fuel and public transport.

The government is struggling to deliver on its constitutional mandate as a result of rampant corruption and mismanagement.

There is a lot of pressure on our president with the dynamics this year within his Cabinet and agencies of government. There is urgent pressure to alleviate poverty and unemployment in the context of the National Development Plan. There isn’t a very positive outlook for 2023 due to the energy crisis and its impact on economic development and small businesses in particular.

The challenges appear insurmountable. But we must draw on our experiences during Covid. As a faculty, we discussed the trauma we experienced. Amid the loss and anxiety, there was a silver lining.

We have drawn on resilience, goodwill, social capital and kindness that emerged during these dark times and which now stands us in good stead as a nation. The threat to our lives and livelihoods really brought these attributes to the fore. It also brought innovation.

In this spirit, our faculty has strengthened its existing collaborations with like-minded organisations. Part of our strategic plan for student success involves partnerships and collaborations like the one we established with the South African Institute of Professional Accountants (SAIPA).

The 10-year partnership was established out of the need for a professional qualification beyond the chartered accountant qualification route. We offer an accredited BCom Financial Accounting programme in partnership with SAIPA to strategically prepare and position our students for a smoother integration into the world of work that facilitates both theory and practice.

SAIPA’s Chief Executive, Shahied Daniels, said that we need to ready the professional accountants of tomorrow, today, to thrive in a fast-changing and increasingly technologically robust accountancy landscape. It’s one thing equipping students with the necessary technical skills, but providing them with the ability to apply these skills in a dynamic way is another – and that is what our partnership enables.

In the same way, SAIPA and UWC are reaching out to the government to partner and collaborate in the same way.

On 23 February 2023, SAIPA and our faculty will host a breakfast and a full-day engagement, where the Budget will be interrogated.

We are positioning the event in the higher education sector to engage in some of the pragmatic ways universities can partner with the government and other relevant stakeholders to find solutions that transcend fiscal limitations.

We are connected, and we want to be more responsive. We are using the opportunity to introduce our new Department of Management and Entrepreneurship, Department of Finance, and our BCom Information Systems programme. These are further ways in which we are hoping to prepare our students for scarce skills that are needed in the world of work.

Together with SAIPA’s Faith Ngwenya, Technical & Standards Executive, we believe that the Youth today need to be more competitive than ever before to advance in the job market.

Through this partnership with SAIPA, we are enabling tomorrow’s finance and accountancy practitioners to be one step closer on their journey to becoming successful Professional Accountants (SA).

* Professor Michelle Esau is the Dean of the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences at the University of the Western Cape.

** The SAIPA’s Budget Breakfast and the event takes place on Thursday, 23 February 2023, at the Jakes Gerwel Hall at the University of the Western Cape from 7.30 am. To book your seat, visit

*** The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of IOL or Independent Media.

‘Disclaimer - The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the BEE CHAMBER’.


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