Ruth Butaumocho : Gender Editor
Bearing full responsibility for a company’s success or failure is no easy task. Not only do you have to deal with external pressures that tug you away from day to day business operations, but the volume of internal demands can be enormous. And it takes a good strategist, planner and a level-headed individual to balance such a turbulent lifestyle.Mr Matthew Kunaka has been juggling the ball with ease for more than two decades at the helm of different organisations as chief executive officer.
He is the current chief executive officer for the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Zimbabwe.
He once worked for Zimpapers, Fiscorp Private Limited, Integrity Asset Managers Private Limited, Able City Private Limited and Independent Media Investment Holdings (IMG) in the same capacity.
“I have had my share in heading organisations and each experience was always different.
“For each organisation, I felt I was starting all over again, because I had to learn new organisational culture, management tools and build new relationships while re-framing old ones,” he said in an interview recently.
His leadership allowed some of the companies to overcome tumultuous economic challenges, bringing sanity to their operations.
His leadership qualities have helped him nurture and groom professionals who are now doing well in their respective areas.
Through his vision and quest for achievement, Mr Kunaka’s curriculum vitae have transcended the borders of Zimbabwe, turning him into a household name especially in accounting.
Mr Kunaka has been working on the intersection of accounts and management throughout his life, giving him a competitive edge to run different enterprises without any problem.
That experience, coupled with his qualifications and tenacity to agitate for robust change in his mandated field, have seen him getting a reasonable share of making tough decisions and enjoying rich pickings in the chief executives’ club.
When he was initially appointed the first black chief executive of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Zimbabwe, he was responsible of leading a team of professional staff in administering the institutes affairs.
This led to the successful enrolment of B Compt students with the University of South Africa through the institute, in the process saving Zimbabwe the ever scarce foreign currency, which would otherwise have had to be remitted to South Africa.
“A lot of positive things happened during my tenure with the association. For instance, reciprocal membership agreements with the Institute of England and Wales, the Irish Institute and the Scottish Institute were finalised during my tenure at the helm of the Institute,” he enthused.
However, he concedes that in all his assignments and appointments, the ball was not always around as Mr Kunaka sometimes faced resistance in executing his duties. He recalls how interference from some board members at Zimpapers forced him to resign in frustration even though he would have wanted to stay longer and take the group to another level.
But through his vision and quest for achievement, Mr Kunaka was never found wanting in executing his duties in the mandated areas.
This has largely been as a result of his belief in hard work, a virtue that his mother instilled in him while he was still a young boy.
“My mother taught me the importance of hard work and inculcated in me an entrepreneurial mind that by the time I was in Standard 6, I already had a savings account with the POSB from my earnings as a vendor,” he recalled.
Growing up in the high density suburbs of Mabvuku and Mbare was not easy and that alone spurred him to work even harder than his peers in preparation of the “life ahead”.
That meant taking odd jobs and he was on several occasions employed as a driver even when he was only a few months away from completing his degree programme.
With his mind set on becoming a doctor, a profession considered prestigious then, Mr Kunaka would juggle his time between selling different wares, while studying to attain the highest points needed for the course.
“While I was in school, I would also look for part time jobs during the holiday so that I could supplement the family’s income,” said Mr Kunaka who revealed that he was raised in a polygamous family.
After failing to qualify for medicine, Mr Kunaka briefly enrolled for a BSC general degree before one of his friends convinced him to pursue a degree in accountancy.
That decision to switch to accountancy became the benchmark of the success that Mr Kunaka enjoys to this day.
After graduating with a degree in accountancy at the University of Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia), he signed for Articles with Price Waterhouse and left the country for Botswana in 1979, returning after independence in 1980, and immediately signed up with KPMG.
Qualified as a chartered accountant in 1983, he left the country to study for a Masters in Business Administration at the University of Delaware in the US.
After completing his MBA Mr Kunaka went to London and worked for KPMG before returning to Zimbabwe in 1990.
As a qualified accountant, he also worked for the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, Delta Corporation, Coopers and Lybrand Associates and several accounting firms as a partner.
Mr Kunaka says Zimbabwe boasts unparalleled high standards in accounting, a development that has resulted in some of its accountants being sought after all over the world.
“Our standards have remained high, and our accountants are working all over the world. We have 100 in the United States, 150 in the United Kingdom, 250 in South Africa and 50 in Australia,” he proudly revealed.
Mr Kunaka, however, revealed that accountancy has remained dominated by men, with only a few women taking up the profession.
“Although there has been a gradual increase in the number of female accountants enrolling and qualifying for the profession, the sector is still dominating by men.
“This might be largely due to the demanding nature of the work, and the long hours one has to spend preparing for the examinations which are very tough and demanding.”
Faced with such a scenario, Mr Kunaka said a large percentage of female students were forced to choose between pursuing their career and starting a family, with the latter taking precedence.
“It has since emerged that those ladies who remain resolute and complete the accountancy course usually excel in their classes or categories.”
Mr Kunaka, who is currently studying for a PHD in Management with Christ University in India, urged communities to encourage female students to take up accountancy as a profession.
“I have never believed in the words ‘we can’t do it’, and I know our girls can do it. They have proved they can,” he said.
Mr Kunaka is already planning his life after retiring from accounting.
“I have not ruled out politics. It is an area worth considering.
“I could have stayed abroad after graduating, but I decided to come back home and take part in nation building.”