BY Fast Company SA 5 MINUTE READ

The Top 35-under-35 competition is a competition launched by the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) in 2014 to recognise its young CA(SA) achievers. It has proved to be a huge success in recognizing and exposing young CAs(SA) under the age of 35 who are not just achieving extraordinary results in their professional capacity, but also having an immense impact on society.

Ayanda Kanana (35), Managing Executive at Metropolitan Trading Company (SOC) Ltd, won the award in the public sector category, while Francois Herbst (30), MD of House of Growth (Pty) Ltd, won the entrepreneur category. Due to the high standard of the candidates in the competition, two additional awards were also announced. Robert Zwane (34), Director: Education & Transformation at the Independent Regulatory Board for Auditors, won the special award for power of professional thinking: education, and Tyron Barnard (31), Head of Audit Training at KPMG, won the special award for out of the ordinary.

The winners are considered the cream of the crop among this year’s under 35 CAs(SA), who have shed blood, sweat and tears to achieve their career aspirations. Indeed, all 35 finalists are individuals who have not only successfully pursued their career dreams, but who have excelled and moved swiftly through the ranks to lead operations within notable organisations.

Being the first recipient of the very first PwC CEO Innovation Award, when James moved on to Distell he of course took along his innovative spirit. At Distell, James is Group General Manager for Business Improvement with a team of about 20 professionals within Group Corporate Finance.

James Wilkinson not only understands the issues affecting our country but is very determined to do his part to making South Africa succeed. Those who know him well, say he is one of those rare individuals who understands that leadership and service are inextricably linked.

Public sector category winner, Ayanda Kanana, is resilient and motivated by challenges. Post articles, Ayanda joined the Deloitte Learning Team and through that role, he influenced professional lives of trainees as a learning manager and also developed a keen interest in the public sector.

‘My journey in the public sector began in 2010 when I became a member of Municipal Owned Entities’ Audit Committees,’ says Ayanda. ‘There was a drive by the National Government to ensure that all government entities and departments were to achieve clean audits by year 2014, an initiative formulated by the late Sicelo Shiceka, Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, in 2009. I took this Operation Clean Audit 2014 initiative as my opportunity to make a difference in the public sector. This marked the beginning of my career in government.’

Entrepreneur category winner, Francois Herbst, an experienced serial entrepreneur, was born with one serious entrepreneurial spirit. He is a life optimist and strategic-minded business man who has learned that networking and building strong relationships are the bridge between education and success.

Francois is the founder and Managing Director of the business advisory and consulting firm House of Growth. He is super-skilled in leveraging strong entrepreneurial expertise in corporate and financial transactions while pioneering, establishing and directing start-up companies and investment projects. To date, Francois has successfully secured R40 million in investment capital to finance start-up companies and investment projects.

‘As a business consultant for small and medium enterprises, I get to assist numerous entrepreneurs with the design and implementation of their financial structures, as well as their strategic planning. I see first-hand the growth of these individuals and their businesses. I am fortunate to find myself in an environment where I keep on learning, keep on challenging myself, and keep on growing as an individual and professional. To achieve this has been one of my career highlights,’ says Francois.

The SAICA Chief Executive Officer, Terence Nombembe, congratulated all the participants and especially the award winners. ‘It is indeed gratifying to see that our young CAs(SA) are committed to responsible leadership when the profession is under scrutiny for purported unethical behaviour by a minority of CAs(SA) who have not embraced the principle of doing the right thing even while no one is looking,” says Terence. “Our young CAs(SA) are a beacon of light and hope that points to the fact that our economy is in good hands, led by responsible young CA(SA) business leaders who through their commitment engender trust in the profession.”

With a panel of seven prestigious judges which included Dineshrie Pillay CA(SA) – Chairperson of the judging panel, Business Consultant and Public Speaker, Andile Khumalo CA(SA) – Presenter of Power Business on Power98.7 and Chief Investment Officer of MSG Afrika Investment Holdings, Brent Tromp CA(SA) – Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of Discovery Health, Gugu Mtetwa CA(SA) – Non-executive Director, Sanjay Galal CA(SA) – CFO of Syspro, Njabulo Nyawo CA(SA) – Financial Insights Lead at Standard Bank and Michael Mchugh – Team Leader: Investec Private Bank, each finalist was interviewed personally where an overall winner is selected along with three category winners: entrepreneur, corporate and public sector and two special award winners: power of professional thinking – education, and out of the ordinary.

Speaking of the three category winners, one of the judges – Andile Khumalo said: ‘James Wilkinson is an all-round top candidate. Confident, ambitious and has already achieved so much at his age. Francois Herbst is nothing short of brilliant. His story and his focus are something special. Ayanda Kanana is a humble yet steadfast young man who has taken the road less travelled and put his career firmly on the line to ensure government does the right things and serves its people.’

The competition’s proud sponsors are Investec, PPS and Syspro who have recognised the value of the competition as it provides a platform to recognise young CAs(SA), both nationally and internationally, who are bringing about a valuable contribution to the economy of South Africa.


The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA), South Africa’s pre-eminent accountancy body, is widely recognised as one of the world’s leading accounting institutes. The Institute provides a wide range of support services to more than 42 000 members and associates who are chartered accountants [CAs(SA)], as well as AGAs(SA) and ATs(SA), who hold positions as CEOs, MDs, board directors, business owners, chief financial officers, auditors and leaders in every sphere of commerce and industry, and who play a significant role in the nation’s highly dynamic business sector and economic development.

SAICA Media Contact:

Kulani Chauke
Communication Coordinator: Corporate
SAICA Brand Division
011 479 0698
[email protected]