SAKALANI PHIRI: ACCOUNTING IS PREPARING ME FOR LEADERSHIP IN ZAMBIA AND BEYOND

March 15, 2020,

Lusaka, Zambia

Leading energy conglomerate, Sahara Group has an exceptional track record of being an organisation that recognises and celebrates the achievements of its employees, especially the young professionals.  A considerable portion of Sahara Group’s operations across the globe are propelled by innovative millennials who are outstanding in their professional calling as they are outside work. In this interview, Sakalani Phiri a Finance and supply chain officer at Asharami Energy Zambia, a Sahara Group company, speaks about his achievement as the best student in Advanced Management Accounting and Advanced Financial Management in the Chartered Accounting examination organised by the Zambia Institute of Chartered Accountants and how the culture of excellence in Sahara is fueling his ambition for more laurels as a foremost accountant in Zambia.

What Informed Your passion for accounting?

My passion for accounting was developed when I was in eighth grade and this was equally the time I heard of the chartered accountants. I took time to find out what it was all about and I decided that I wouldn’t want to be just an accountant but a chartered accountant.

You emerged as the best student in Advanced Management Accounting and Advanced Financial Management in your CA examination. Can you describe how you achieved this and how the feat makes you feel?

I must say it is a good feeling. Throughout my studies, I pushed myself to do my very best and utilize each given opportunity. It took a couple of sleepless nights and late-night studies and classes with my lecturer as I was the only student that had decided to take the business route (which meant taking the said courses) while others opted for the public sector route at the institution I was enrolled. Most of my classes where pushed to weekends and that meant little to no social life. When I look back, I feel so delighted that I gave this everything I had. It was worth each moment.

Who are your role models in the accounting profession?

Mr. Mulunda (in Zambia’s Auditor General’s Office) and Mr. Kiran Naik (Owner of KN Associate and the Senior Partner of PKF Audit Firm). They are well rounded and have worked on becoming experts in the accounting profession. The two men have played a pivotal role in my journey thus far. They have challenged me each step of the way and every interaction with them, has always left me striving to do my best. Added to my list is my now Line Manager, Mr Ita Onofiok.

What are the values that drive your lifestyle?

I believe in using each opportunity that I am presented with and giving it my very best. This is one value that I have held at the core.

How do you plan to use your profession to facilitate growth and development in Zambia?

I am of the strong belief that the accounting profession will remain at the center of development not only In Zambia but the world at large. I will endeavor to participate in national development matters through different platforms that are available and add my voice and most importantly execute my duties in my workplace in a better way because I know every bit of innovative and productive work done across the nation will end up  facilitating the development of my country.

Zambia has a great history in Africa. If you become the President of Zambia what would be the three major areas of intervention for you?

Presidency is of a limited time frame to 5 years and at most 10 years in Zambia and given the limited time, the three major areas of intervention would be, the Energy Sector, Agriculture and Health Sector. The energy Sector is currently facing one of its most difficult times in the history of the country, I would foster a sector that is more future oriented and more proactive than reactive. There is an urgent need to diversify away from the hydro-power driven economy. Without addressing this need, we shall be certainly pushing the country back into the stone age. The mining sector has remained the backbone of the economy and I believe we now need to move towards agriculture and tourism. The Agriculture sector can birth other industries such as food processing. A healthy people will ultimately translate to a healthy nation. I will definitely focus on creative ways of transforming the health sector through investment in technology and capacity building from primary to tertiary health care. As president, I would ensure that the country is integrated with the latest technology and keep training the best medical doctors. Furthermore, with the increase in the number of lifestyle diseases in the country, I would champion campaigns that would be aimed at dealing with the root cause of lifestyle diseases, which is simply, lifestyle.

How has Sahara Group influenced and enhanced your performance and approach to work?

I have found the Sahara Culture and work environment to be dynamic, diverse and fast-paced, presenting one with a platform to grow, learn, develop and innovate.  It pushes me to be my very best and this is evident in the way I take tasks at work as well as my professional examinations.

Sahara Group embarks on several initiatives aimed at transforming the lives of people at the company’s various locations across the globe. How important is it to you that Sahara has provided this platform for you to give back? 

It is important to me as it echoes the values and culture of the Group and that they Interested in the wellbeing of its work force to keep aiming for higher. I intend to use the volunteering platform Sahara Group provides to add my quote to the development of Zambia. I am always inspired by the platform and the potential offers to transform the lives of young people in Zambia.

As a young Zambian, what do you think the continent and the world need to do to secure the future of young people in Zambia and across Africa?

I believe there is a need to invest in the potential that the young Zambians and Africans have by providing them with the necessary mentorship and skills set.

How do you unwind seeing you come across as a bookworm?

I have never really viewed myself as a bookworm but nonetheless, I am simply taking it easy while trying to play catch up with the hobbies (among them playing the keyboard) that I had surrendered due to time constraints.

What are your plans for the future?

My immediate plans are to learn more about the oil and gas industry as well as to ensure that I fulfill my dream of acquiring the designation of Chartered Accountant.