Accounting body looks to metaverse for job creation

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The South African Institute for Business Accountants (SAIBA) has developed a strategy to build a financial reporting supply chain metaverse, to upskill unemployed accounting graduates.

The organisation says it has signed agreements with technology partners and universities across SA, as it prepares to debut its metaverse in 2023.

As part of the initial phase of the project, SAIBA says it has created blueprints and manuals outlining its metaverse strategy. This will see the creation of virtual SMEs and accounting firms based on real-world experiences.

Established in 1990, the professional body represents 11 000 bookkeepers, accountants, auditors, tax practitioners, financial managers and CFOs from all sectors of SA’s economy.

Dubbed the next evolution of social connection, the metaverse is loosely defined as an extensive online world where people interact via digital avatars.

Earlier this year, industry pundits told ITWeb that while SA is still in the infancy stages of adoption, in 2022 more companies are expected to experiment with the metaverse, as they evolve their digital strategies to meet customer demands and increase profit margins.

In March, MTN and advertising and marketing consultancy M&C Saatchi Abel became the first local firms to buy virtual real estate in Africa’s first metaverse, Africarare.

Nicolaas van Wyk, CEO of SAIBA, tells ITWeb the accounting body’s metaverse initiative will form part of the SAIBA University to Professional programme, which seeks to develop skilled accountants and address the critical skills shortage of accountants in SA, while facilitating SME growth.

The initiative, which has already placed 300 accounting graduates in jobs, is funded by the Sector Education and Training Authority for the Finance, Accounting, Management Consulting and other Financial Services sector (FASSET).

It is a manual intervention where SAIBA ‘shows-and-tells’ unemployed aspiring accountants how an accounting practice and the financial reporting system works, he adds.

“While the project is shovel-ready, our plan is to start developing the metaverse in 2023. We have submitted a grant application to FASSET for R100 million to fund us, as we build the financial reporting supply chain metaverse. This will consist of virtual firms developed based on their real-world counterparts,” explains Van Wyk.

“Artificial intelligence tools and robots will be deployed to train and develop unemployed graduates in a similar way as we currently train article clerks within physical firms. The experience will be immersive, with VR technology providing a very real-world experience.”

The concept is based on already existing global use cases, he adds.

Nicolaas van Wyk, CEO of SAIBA.
Nicolaas van Wyk, CEO of SAIBA.

SAIBA specialises in certifying accountants and tax practitioners by verifying their qualifications and experience. The organisation also helps people to become certified accountants and tax practitioners by providing guidance, standards and training, creating employment opportunities for them to start their own accounting practices, or find better employment as accountants.

While the University to Professional programme has made inroads in upskilling graduates, the problem is the limited space and time of a physical environment, notes Van Wyk. It can only upskill limited numbers, yet the demand is a thousand times more.

“In the metaverse, we will have no limit on the number of unemployed graduates we would be able to expose to a virtual financial reporting world. We know that once we establish our version of the metaverse, our trainees will be able to support all big corporations that are now building their own platforms and shops within the metaverse.”

This would enable both physical and virtual SMEs to access thousands of newly-equipped accountants, driving down prices but increasing volume. It would in turn create more job opportunities for bookkeepers, accountants and accounting clerks, who will be working with integrated online accounting software such as QuickBooks and Draftworx, he concludes.

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