United States picks Kenyan to sit in global aid agency's board

Kenned Odede, Founder of SHOFCO during the interview with the Standard in Nairobi. [Elvis Ogina. Standard]

The US government has appointed a Kenyan to the advisory committee on foreign aid at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Kennedy Odede will sit in the committee, first established in the aftermath of World War I, tasked with shaping America's approach to international development.

Over the years, the committee has evolved to play a key role in fostering cooperation between the US government and a range of NGOs, and has provided a platform for civil society to engage with USAID and help inform its approach to US foreign assistance.

Dr Odede is renowned for his philanthropy work through the Shining Hope for Communities (Shofco), an organization he founded to empower the poor, especially in urban slums such as Kibera, Korogocho, Matharae and across counties.

His appointment to the crucial committee comes less than two years after he hosted USAID boss Samantha Power at the inaugural World Communities Forum where he showcased his work aimed at delivering community-driven change that has seen his organisation impact more than 2.5 million slum dwellers in Kenya through various causes. He will serve for three years.

The forum brought together development experts such as Chelsea Clinton, Darren Walker, Dr Oby Ezekwesili and Cecile Richards who rooted for grassroots solutions from community-based leaders while inspiring what they termed decolonization of development.

It is at the forum that Odede challenged Power and the other leaders to invest more in community-led solutions, especially in areas of access to health, water, community advocacy platforms, education and leadership development for women and girls.

"The committee's new membership has leaders representing a broad range of sectors who will support the agency's mission and goals by advising on key development challenges and priorities. The committee will be chaired by Nisha Biswal, Senior Vice President for International Strategy and Global Initiatives at the US Chamber of Commerce," said Power in her statement confirming the appointments.

USAID is an independent American agency responsible for administering civilian foreign aid and development assistance. With a budget of over $27 billion (Sh3.2 trillion), USAID is one of the largest official aid agencies in the world and accounts for more than half of all US foreign assistance, the highest in the world in absolute dollar terms.

The appointment expands Odede's global reach in sharing how partnerships between the government and community-led organisations can help end poverty within Kenyan and African slums while achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In May this year, he joined a panel of eminent persons at the World Economic Forum in Davos to discuss how to eliminate poverty.

"I welcome this appointment. It is my conviction that national and local governments, private sector, NGOs as well as global leaders should invest in community-led solutions if the world has to achieve substantiable development," Odete said yesterday.

Odede founded Shofco in 2004 in Kibera slums in Nairobi and has now expanded to 16 counties across Kenya, serving more than 2.5 million people.