Botswana Accountancy College (BAC) has become a benchmark of tertiary learning and is attracting global peers of high repute in post graduate offerings. A growing number of his graduates are landing Pound seats of power in government and private sector. He talks to KABELO ADAMSON
Michael Lesolle comes around as easy, friendly and approachable individual. He prides himself with overseeing the remarkable growth of Botswana Accountancy College (BAC) since he assumed the position of the Executive Director of the institution in 2005.
The college has since its establishment - close to two decades ago - grown from just one programme-focused school as the name might suggest, to be counted among the best colleges locally and abroad producing market ready graduates.
This is due to some prudent leadership and the unique model of operation, allowing it to become what is was destined to be, a college of choice under the care of Lesolle.
A chartered accountant by profession, Lesolle, a soft spoken individual speaks from the top of his head on the role of BAC in the local economy.
Earlier this week just after a joint ceremony between BAC and the Local Enterprise Authority (LEA), which was meant to recognise excelling student consultants, Patriot Business caught up with Lesolle to find out exactly what is the school about and its journey.
The boardroom in the Executive wing of the college provided a comfortable sitting for the interview. Established in 1996, as a joint venture between the government through Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, Debswana Diamond Company and Botswana Institute of Accountants (BIA), the school has evolved to offer contemporary economically essential programmes such as computing and business.
Lesolle explains why the college was set up in the first place, reflecting on the time the school was formed and what it has come to be today.
“From the time the institution was set up, there was a very clear objective. It came as a result of Debswana, the government and BIA realising the gap in the economy for shortage of chartered accountants,” the soft-spoken Lesolle reveals.
A decision to was taken to establish one institution that will address the aforementioned challenge, not as a parastatal but a company limited by guarantee with powers to make its decisions through the board of directors as opposed to a council as is the case with most tertiary institutions.
“What happened subsequently was that BAC evolved from Accountancy College that offers the economy not only accountants but various professionals in several fields such as computing and business,” he said.
Situated in the financial district of Fairgrounds and also with another campus in Francistown, the school is not only targeting undergraduates but also postgraduate students and continues to add programmes which enhance skills of individuals and by extension render such to the economy.
The college offers an array of programmes, both undergraduate and post graduates including professional programmes. Most of the programmes at the college are offered in collaboration with international universities such as University of Derby, University of Sunderland and as well as Sheffield Hallam University which are United Kingdom institutions.
Locally, BAC collaborates with other tertiary institutions such as Francistown College of Technical and Vocational Education (FCTVE) for hospitality programmes.
Partnering with international universities of repute was not by chance. “Most of the top universities choose wisely whom to partner with, and when taunting possible collaboration, a thorough assessment is done,” says the college executive director.
The business model used by BAC, as Lesolle explains, is that the collaboration with other academic houses offers their students opportunity to sit for the same examinations as their counterparts in other universities abroad, giving them high chances of being employed.
Lesolle, a chartered accountant by profession, believes the school is equipped with all what it takes to contribute to the economy. The staff and facilities are of world standards.
What sets BAC apart from other colleges or universities is that, the school offers degrees which are more like applied sciences. “What you learn in the classroom is what you will ultimately apply,” says Lesolle, adding that this has given them the opportunity to move to masters’ programmes. These programmes, he says, are a progression which offers people particularly those in position of leadership an opportunity to enhance their skills and play a better role in the economy.
Lesolle notes that people who have gone through the BAC corporate learning have went on to apply themselves powerfully in their respective organisations as a result of tailor made programmes catered for them.
The school recently went into partnership with Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB) which has seen BAC starting to offer short courses on the basics of public procurement. The course is not only limited to those who seek further progression, but was recently expanded to cater for the general public.
Lesolle discloses that the college will in the next r two months launch a new programme, Banking and Finance degree in collaboration with Sheffield Hallam University
Not only does the college prides itself with offering the best corporate learning but is also a citadel of knowledge in several academic fields which enables it to keep on churning out employable and market ready graduates who are needed by the economy.
The college, which today boosts of more than 5000 students in both the Gaborone and Francistown campus, has grown in leaps and bounds from just less than 1000 students five years ago. “This shows how much we have grown as an institution in the last five years or so,” Lesolle notes.
The quality of learning at BAC is of high degree. According to Lesolle, this has resulted in the college scooping some of the prestigious awards over the years. Lesolle points to some several framed certificates that hang on the boardroom wall and explains that one of them is the prestigious platinum status awarded to them by the Association of Certified Chartered Accountants (ACCA) for the best partnership. The award, he says, speaks volumes about the quality of learning on offer at BAC.
He points out they are of the seven colleges to receive such awards in the whole of Africa. Further, he says they have been given another award by the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA).
The school has produced some innovative students. One of them developed a cattle monitoring system used by farmers.
BAC has been, as Lesolle reveals, approached by the Human Resource Advisory Council (HRDC) to address issues of skills mismatch focusing mainly on the business sector of the economy.
“Our future is to look within our mandate. We would not go into something that we are not good at,” he says, adding that the institution has aspirations to go further into the region by attracting international students.
Lesolle beams with confidence when speaking about the type of learning found at the college, and for them is a case of quality compared to quality, and it is for this reason that the schools enrols just above 5000 students.
“Our graduates are articulate, confident and can express themselves with relative ease,” he exclaims.
This is the result of considerable investment in human capital, people who are experts on their own right. Lesolle points out that unlike in most tertiary institutions, their business degrees take three years as compared to four years for most schools.
As we approach the end of the interview, Lesolle removes his glasses and asks whether he has covered all about BAC. It is time to talk about himself.
“I have been here for 10 years, and as a chartered accountant, this is where my roots are,” he says, adding that he has been privileged work with a reputable firm in Deloitte in Botswana and the UK.
He has also previously worked as CEO of Botswana Savings Bank. Asked about his motto, Lesolle says that he does not live by one. He, however, says he is a great believer in making a difference in people’s lives. People in position of leadership, he says, should shoulder the responsibility of steering the economy in the right direction.
When asked about how he relaxes, Lesolle burst into laughter and points that he is always kept on his toes. The position of leading the college seldom gives him time to relax, but when he finds that time, he retreats to the countryside and listens to the soothing sounds of jazz.