Purpose - Africa focus, overview of the climate, introduction of the key aspects of the report
Our 2020 Integrated Report tells the story of an extraordinary year.
2020 has seen the biggest upheaval to our Africa operations in living memory. So much of what has happened was unpredicted and unprecedented. Our integrated report tells the story of how, collectively, we have tried to manage the threat of COVID-19, support each other, support our clients and contribute to society. Front line workers and families have borne huge burdens as the crisis has unfolded, and I am proud that we have been able to play some part in supporting them and the societal response to the pandemic. Of course we’ve not been alone in this - our colleagues, clients, friends and families around the world have been impacted in numerous ways.
The integrated report further explores how we have helped build trust and solve important problems. Our purpose has never been more important. We have over 9000 people across Africa, 5000 of which in South Africa, all making a difference and having an impact.
While there will be an obvious impact on our financial results, what I am most proud of is how our people’s resilience and engagement shone through, even under the most adverse circumstances. Literally overnight, all 9 000 of our people across Africa went from being mostly office bound, to working remotely. Our significant investment in technology over the past few years enabled us to resume operations almost seamlessly, and our people took the new world of virtual work in their stride. While physical face-to-face engagement with colleagues was sacrificed, we’ve seen the most innovative ways of virtual working amongst our teams, while at the same time enabling them to be with their families and meet the various additional responsibilities and obligations thrust upon them by COVID-19. I’ve been profoundly impressed by the way our people and business have adapted to new ways of working while retaining an unrelenting focus on supporting our clients, without compromising on quality. For this I would like to personally thank each and every one of you.
In this integrated report we’ll look at how our South African firm has navigated the complex environment in which our clients and our firm find themselves. Throughout the challenging time of COVID-19, we’ve always maintained a future-focused view. Recovery will come, and while the world may look different, we have an obligation to our people and our clients to build back better. As a leading professional services firm and employer, we believe we have a significant role to play in shaping and delivering this recovery, both in our own work and through our work with clients and our communities.
Something that we are acutely aware of is the fact that trust lies at the heart of everything we do at PwC. It’s fundamental to fulfilling our firm’s purpose. We believe transparency is important for us and our clients, and we are determined to play a leading role in advancing that agenda.
Just as important is our focus on quality. We have rigorous policies, systems and processes in place for ensuring audit quality, and we foster a culture of quality at every level of the firm. We talk more about this in our 2020 Transparency Report.
Our people are key to performing high quality audits and we draw upon a wide range of specialist skills across our multidisciplinary practice. That’s why we maintain a constant emphasis on our purpose and values that address integrity and independence. We continue to invest in our people by providing ongoing professional and personal development, with in-depth training. From the early stages of the pandemic, the PwC network put a team in place to monitor developments globally and to highlight areas of critical importance to ensure we did not compromise on audit quality. We have leveraged the guidance developed by our network to provide consistent leadership and guidance on audit quality and equip our teams to consider their client’s unique circumstances and respond accordingly.
As always, our people have been top of mind, from regular communication with them throughout the various stages of lockdown in our respective countries in Africa, to issues like wellbeing, the inevitable financial and job security concerns that arose in the early days, and their ability to continue working from home while shouldering additional family and other responsibilities. We’ve been open and honest with our people, and have been rewarded with a commitment and resilience that is admirable.
The traditional way of work is no more. Our new normal has seen our offices reopen, with flexible arrangements to suit individual staff members. This blended way of working is set to be our new normal, and offers an exciting and flexible dimension to our operations. All of this is underpinned by a drive to ensure we can help our clients solve their most important problems and that we have the technology to be able to do that.
Our Africa strategy has remained unchanged, and we continue to deliver on our key strategic objectives, underpinned as always by quality, our values and our purpose. Our report details how we are going about delivering on our strategy despite the environment in which we find ourselves. Financial performance is a function of our ability to serve clients and stakeholders well and invest in our own future. While there are undoubtedly challenges ahead, we believe we are well positioned for 2021 and beyond.
Digital upskilling of our people and our communities; growing our business by focusing on key growth areas; and contributing to societal impact initiatives are just some of the focus areas we expand on in this integrated report.
Going forward, we need to be able to manage both the immediate and the long term. COVID-19 will continue to have profound impacts on our operating environment. At the same time, we are preparing for the future. The pandemic is a defining moment for all our businesses, but I firmly believe that the true strength of PwC Africa continues to be a clear purpose and an engaged workforce - the rest will follow.
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