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My First-Hand Experience Participating in the CFO100 Program

By Teshager Demissie | Thu May 25 2017
It’s been about a month now since the CFO100 Program training launched and already we are in the process of advancing our finance managers into CFOs.
Before, during and after the training:
As program coordinator of the CFO100 training, I am in charge of communicating with our portfolio companies finance managers and other external applicants. Most of the communication is explaining the program, why it is important, and how both the companies they work with and individuals benefit from it. As a requirement to attend the training we request all applicants take an online examination, and we ensure all applicants know what the program entails. RENEW also gives partial sponsorship to support the participants to sit for the ACCA exams. One of my duties is to coordinate with ACCA's Ethiopia office to get participants registered and to suggest the type of paper to take first.
Internally, I am involved in preparing training modules that are mostly delivered to the participants by Matthew Davis, CEO of RENEW Strategies. Every Tuesday at 1 PM, Matt will do a dry run of the training with Prasoon Raguwanshi, senior investment manager at RENEW and myself. We start by providing feedback on the content as well as delivery of the training modules. 
4 PM marks the preparation of refreshments with the scent of special coffee in the training room. The preparation of well-placed refreshments – coffee, tea and cookies, welcomes participants from an exhausting day. After the participants are well refreshed and recovered from the long day of work, we begin the program at 5 PM at the Exchange and setup the A/V to record. Once the training has been conducted, I follow-up with the candidates by sending out the reading materials and assignments and answering any questions they might ask after class.
This is my first time doing all this, but I love it!
As I am continuously learning and connecting with people in my profession, it is a good networking opportunity. One of the major skills I learned through this is the skill of training and event coordination. I am constantly communicating with trainees to announce launch dates or any amendments, pitching CFO100 and describing how one can benefit from this training. This is separate from all the knowledge I receive from attending the actual training that Matt delivers.
What do we hope to accomplish?
In simple words, we are trying to train and graduate 100 CFOs over a period of 5 years. The program is aimed at aspiring CFOs (now working as junior/senior accountants, treasury/receivable/payable controllers, budget heads and finance managers) who want to improve their finance knowledge and performance. 
We cannot find many CFOs in Ethiopia as opposed to finance managers responsible for doing accountant’s tasks. There are finance managers in most accounting departments, which is basically a person who oversees the department and who is responsible for the preparation of financial statements. We are trying to create CFOs; professionals with a holistic view of an organizations performance. This will lead to improved management decision making, since business decisions will not be made in isolation. To achieve this objective, below are some of the important things we discuss in our hands-on training:
Accounting system: 
At RENEW, a company that already invested in seven local businesses, inaccurate financial statements are the major challenge we face while reporting to our remote investors in North America. Through this training, we are teaching our portfolio companies accountant’s and others how to set up an accounting system with competent staff, appropriate accounting procedures and manuals, and strong internal controls.
Budgeting and forecasting:
 We preach that a great CFO is one who works closely with the CEO of the company to advise him/her what the future looks like for any decision-making. CFOs should predict the future by preparing the annual budget with a reasonable accuracy.
Financial analysis and risk management:
We highly believe a great CFO will critically look at the numbers to prepare key ratios and read the financials to report to the CFO about the profitability, level of gearing, return on investments and figure out risks before they materialize. 
Chief Finance Officers (CFOs) frequently progress from being a controller and a good accountant or treasurer into a new role where they are expected to participate in developing strategies, manage a group and exercise leadership as well as be on top of the numbers. The CFO100 Program has been designed by RENEW to address those issues that move from technical expertise to the less structured issues of strategic development and working closely with the CEO.
By doing this, we firmly believe that we will contribute to the growth of this profession in Ethiopia. Finance is said to be a highly important profession to sustain a country’s economy.
We recently collected feedback from the participants, to check if the topics covered were relevant to their work, if the time allocated (2 hours per week apart from self-study) was sufficient, if they believe the trainer knows the subject matter, and we asked to list out the strengths and weaknesses they observed during the training. The responses were mostly positive; some said it was hands on training that focused on real life examples unlike any accounting course they took before. We were delighted to see some areas of improvement for us as well. This is just our first course; we hope the upcoming ones will be even more interesting and more relatable for everyone involved.
Renew Capital is an Africa-focused impact investment firm that backs innovative companies with high-growth potential. Renew Capital manages investments made on behalf of the Renew Capital Angels, a global network of angel investors, foundations and family offices who seek financial returns and sustainable social impact. For the latest on investing in Africa, subscribe and follow us at our social links below.

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