Rhuan Gunesh, a member of Accountants Without Borders, explains to Vincent Huck why some French accountants have launched an NGO to help with accounting issues and humanitarian projects in West Africa.

The Accountant: Can you explain what the association is about?

Gunesh: Accountants Without Borders was created in 1992. We currently have 300 members, half of which are either professional accountants or accounting firms. We are based in the office of the French professional body and we’re very lucky to be supported by its president, Philippe Arraou.

Our main activity is to organise workshops with teachers or African institutes on the development of accounting. This has allowed us to develop some tools for accounting professors or professionals in Africa. These workshops are not courses but really an exchange of knowledge and expertise that goes both ways and where there’s a contribution from our African colleagues.

This is really our core activity. But we also have what we call “actions coup de coeur”, which are specific projects in various form. It could be financing a well in Burkina Faso, a reforestation project in Burundi, or helping to develop artisanal projects in Mali or Niger, or financing to buy stock to start a farm. We do this mostly in West Africa because it has the same accounting system as France so we as professionals can bring concrete solutions to our African colleagues.

TA: Looking at your core activity – the workshops – what are the topics discussed?

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Gunesh: Topics include modernising the profession and looking to the future. The last one that we did was on IFRS. Today there’s no IFRS commitment in West Africa. There’s a framework called SYSCOA, another framework called the revised SYSCOA and the SYSCOHADA, which all form a bit of patchwork of accounting systems between the different countries. We did a workshop to understand how each country was looking at it.

TA: But how does it work in practice? Who are your local partners? Do they contact you or you contact them?

Gunesh: It often comes through the professional bodies, and we of course have a network of contacts. Our founders had at some point a firm in Africa, and therefore they have contacts there. It’s true that we don’t naturally think that an accountant would invest himself in humanitarian work but if you google ‘accountants humanitarian’ [in french], you’ll easily find us.

TA: Why create such an association because the French professional body and other accountancy bodies are involved in capacity building projects?

Gunesh: We the members are very happy professionally and want to bring something more to our job and that is probably what brings us together in this association. Members are drawn to the association for various reasons: it could be a passion for travelling, or passion about exchanging with other cultures, because we often believe that we’re the ones bringing something, but often it’s the other way around.