Motorcycles, accounting and changing the world for the better

Conceived on a motorcycle trip, this leading on-demand accounting services firm is driven by a larger mission.
Makosi’s #10 000 Kids initiative aims to put 10 000 children through school in three years. Image: Shutterstock

Makosi is the world’s leading on-demand accounting and audit services firm, and its two co-founders have a few things in common: a love of travel, motorcycles and giving back to the community.

Darren Isaacs, a South African-trained chartered accountant (CA), conceived the idea of Makosi while on a motorcycle trip through Africa in the early 2000s.

Some years later, Makosi co-founder Paul Emery completed a round-the-world motorcycle trip in 100 days. When he got to Mongolia, he spent time with a non-governmental organisation assisting children living on the street. It was a life-altering experience.

“I met an eight-year-old boy looking after his two siblings, aged five and two.

“For the Westerners there, this was the most heart-breaking story we had come across,” says Emery.

“But that eight-year-old didn’t need our pity, he just needed a way out. That was the idea behind our initiative #10 000 Kids, which aims to put 10 000 children through school in three years.”

Campaigns like this make for virtuous padding in corporate social investment reports, but #10 000 Kids is encoded in Makosi’s DNA. Attracting the best and brightest accounting and audit talent in the world requires more than a good salary.

“That allows us to attract amazing people and keep them here, because we have a larger mission. This is a major reason why we are the largest provider of on-demand talent in the world,” says Emery.

“We started the #10 000 Kids initiative five years ago, with a portion of revenue from every project going to fund children going to school in developing countries.

“The programme went viral and started attracting so many CAs in South Africa. We get more applications to work with us than any of the Big Four accounting firms in SA.”

It’s one thing to get 10 000 children in developing countries to attend school, but what kind of education are they getting? This is where Makosi has focused its attention.

Research in three African countries – Rwanda, Uganda and Malawi – highlights the more typical problems that hobble educational standards in developing countries, notably a lack of infrastructure and school facilities, a lack of transportation and technology, and curricula inappropriate for the needs of the economy.

“We started looking at the outcomes in these schools,” says Emery. “We wanted to know: were children being taught the right things? Our analysis shows there was very little work around basic communication, interpersonal skills, and basic financial help, such as how to open a bank account. These are the skills you need for any pursuit in life and they are often terribly overlooked in schools.”

Makosi purchased 10 000 books for school children in these three countries as a step towards closing the educational divide that separates rich from poor nations. Emery admits this is a work in progress, and the pursuit of best practice is an evolving understanding.

In attracting the best accounting talent in the world and deploying teams to its international client base, Makosi aims to provide accountants with a purpose larger than themselves.

Accountants are encouraged to roll up their sleeves and get to work in some of the remotest locations in Africa – whether this involves painting a creche or delivering accounting lessons to students. And it appears to be working.

Makosi seems to have little trouble attracting and keeping top talent, because staff are able to measure the broader impact of their labour through formerly deprived children now having a real shot at making it to the top of their chosen professions.

“If there is any message we have been able to impart to these children, it is that the realisation of their ambitions lies within themselves, rather than external to themselves,” says Emery.

Most businesses want to be a source of good, and some succeed more than others. Where they fall short is by focusing narrowly on the bottom line and not on the people that drive that bottom line.

“At Makosi we really believe that every company can do and offer more. We want to use technology and data to do that. This was the motivating force behind the 10 000 Kids initiative, which is aimed at providing a hand to children who are striving for more purpose in their life but may not have access or the resources to pursue their aspirations.”

Makosi has started the process of identifying the right partners on the ground in each country. The goal is to create cohesion in how resources are provided and how existing structures are developed, without disrupting existing community ecosystems.

It’s a bold initiative and one that could potentially change the trajectory of countries like Rwanda, Uganda and Malawi. Unleashing 10 000 highly motivated students, trained into excellence, will surely unleash some extraordinary outcomes in the years to come.

Brought to you by Makosi.

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