For the love of tax

As Covid-19 spreads around the world, it is time to consider the global trade dependency and its impact on businesses, says Memory Mbai, senior manager at PwC Namibia. She talks to Business7 about her profession.

25 March 2020 | Business

This is a time where you have to consider the impact of your actions on everyone else.

B7: Describe yourself in a nutshell: Your roots, background and your professional responsibilities currently.

MM: I’m your typical farm girl, raised in the communal areas of Grootfontein, relocated to Omaruru and fortunate enough to have obtained both my honours degrees in accounting and tax at the University of Bloemfontein in the Free State, South Africa.

My background is in the tax consulting space. I have a keen interest in tax law and have been fortunate enough to have worked for three of the Big Four audit firms, finally settling my roots at PwC as from January to hopefully grow and establish myself as a specialist in the indirect tax space.

My professional responsibilities mostly pertain to indirect tax consulting, offering technical advice to clients on structuring, product development, mergers and acquisition and Inland Revenue liaison on technical matters to name a few. I also assist clients with VAT reviews encompassing health checks and assessments on input recoveries.

B7: Namibia already suffers from recession fatigue. How could Covid-19 impact the economy, business and the consumer?

MM: Namibia has a high reliance on the tourism industry, and although it is early days, we can feel the impact of the travel bans. Tourism is averaged to contribute N$104 million to our revenue pool which may significantly be impacted by the travel bans.

In addition, Namibia is a member of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) which contributes an average of N$19 billion to our revenue pool. With the closure of the borders and the quarantine, global trade may be impacted as production is stalled. This may impact imports and consequently Namibia’s share of the SACU pool.

Businesses should consider the impact of their reliance on global trade from an import perspective, as well as placing a greater focus on cash flow management.

From a consumer perspective, the value of the dollar remains of importance. Any disruptions on the supply chain creates a direct impact on the price consumers must pay. With an added 15% VAT cost to that price, consumers should bear in mind the impact of panic buying on the “viscous” cycle of supply and demand.

B7: What is your advice to businesses right now?

MM: To consider the global trade dependency and its impact on their businesses.

Promoting local collaboration in their strategy would be beneficial to the economy in the sense that less revenue would be exported from the economy. With more revenue being employed locally, this could assist with better infrastructure and employment creation which could decrease the dependency on government and in turn reduce government’s dependency on foreign funding to sustain the local economy.

From an operations perspective, optimising their investment in technology by embracing the virtual meeting platforms.

B7: Is the tax space within an audit firm still mostly a man's world? What does it require from a woman - who often has a spectrum of personal responsibilities too - to be successful?

MM: Surprisingly, the tax space in Namibia can be considered as a “women’s world”, especially from a senior leadership perspective in the Big Four environment. The only challenge however, due to the personal responsibilities, is retention.

Generally speaking, women juggle multiple roles in a day. This is something I learned from my mother, ranging from a professional, a wife, a mother, a friend and a daughter. This can pose a challenge when you work the same 8 to 12-hour day as your male counterparts and still have expectations thereafter of having to step into one or most of the aforementioned roles that are expected of you as a woman.

Luckily, this is where support has been instrumental to the success of females in what is considered to be a “man’s” world in many professions.

I owe most of my success this far to the support I have received from my parents and my family. Growing up, my dad was always on the farm while my mom was some 100km away for 5 days a week, which is not your usual set up. Whenever I asked how they made it work, the message was always consistent that with the right support, anything is possible.

B7: What is your advice to young women entering the profession?

MM: Earn your seat at the table. Do not be hastily or demanding thereof; ideally, your knowledge, your skill, your passion should earn you that seat without you having to say a word. Once you are there, proof that you belong there, and again, let your contribution speak for itself.

Be humble, be kind and bear in mind the support required to be successful with the many hats we wear as women.

Lastly, have a mentor; someone who is impartial, who is honest and who genuinely is invested in your success. You will need this.

B7: What is your personal message to Namibians in these trying times?

MM: It is merely to re-iterate the global message at this point which is to not panic, as panic makes us susceptible to actions such panic buying not bearing in mind the consequences thereof that include those briefly outlined above.

Lastly, is for us to be compassionate to one another.

This is a time where you have to consider the impact of your actions on everyone else and to adhere to any calls for social distancing, self-quarantine so as to not put anyone in harm’s way.

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