Jimmy Kalombo is living proof that the CA(SA) path is a very viable route to greatness – irrespective of who you are or what your background is.
One of five siblings, Jimmy grew up in a one-roomed house. His biggest advantage growing up, he says, was an inspirational mother: although she initially trained as a nurse, she later qualified as a physiotherapist and served as the head of physiotherapy at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital before opening her own practice – as well as a bottle store.
After completing his Chartered Accountancy studies at the University of Johannesburg and his traineeship at Deloitte SA and Deloitte LLP (Miami), Jimmy combined the core skills of accounting, finance, tax, audit, critical and analytical thinking to found Kuwasha Afrika, a company consisting of a financial advisory (Kuwasha Advisory) and a tech/development subsidiary called KuwashaTech.
KuwashaTech was responsible for building an online mentorship platform that has recently been sold to the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA). Each week the platform, which will be officially launched later this year, will offer a select number of mentors - all qualified chartered accountants – who will share their journeys with students and answer their questions via blogs, podcasts and live video streaming.
Jimmy is passionate about supporting black CA(SA) trainees. “Of the 45 000 chartered accountants in the country, only 20% are black,” he says. “I believe this is a legacy issue that was the result of black students not having parents or family and friends in senior corporate positions. As a result, many black students do not have sound advice and guidance on their CA journeys … I wanted to build a platform that will bring the entire ecosystem to aspiring chartered accountants, by allowing them to engage with qualified chartered accountants, companies and products aimed at students.”
KuwashaTech has also developed an online app called Sebenza CV Builder which helps students build their CVs.
Speaking at SAICA’s recent CA Nights in Johannesburg, Jimmy recalled that he hated articles. “I was not happy with my life but at the end of my first year I came to the realization that I had two choices. I could choose to either be like my friend Yusuf who, despite being very talented and smart, was lazy; or I could be like my friend John who always worked hard to be a top performer. John ended up being promoted to chief operating officer of the company he joined after articles. At the same time he was being promoted, Yusuf was still doing his articles. The difference between them was the way they saw articles.”
This year Jimmy was selected by the Barack Obama Foundation and the US embassy as a 2017 Mandela Washington Fellow for Young African Leaders. This is a programme which empowers young people through academic coursework, leadership training, and networking. He was also nominated by the Mail and Guardian as one of the Top 200 South Africans of 2017.
He says he would never have got to this point had he not had that ‘ah ha’ moment at the end of his first year. That was when his paradigm shift occurred and when he realised what he needed to do if he wanted to graduate and be successful.
Despite this paradigm shift Jimmy’s road has not always been easy. Three years ago he was an unemployed, albeit qualified CA(SA) before deciding to look for alternative ways to solve youth unemployment - what he calls his passion project – which resulted in the formation of Kuwasha Africa and career success. Stumbling blocks, he says, are par for the course. “Think carefully about what you define as success and greatness and then then think about where you want to be in the next three years,” he said.
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