Walid Badawi: My tenure at UNDP Kenya has been fulfilling

UNDP Resident Representative Kenya Walid Badawi speaking during a handover of ICT equipment and motor vehicle for MSE registration. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

For a man whose first job was as a tour guide in New York, Walid Badawi is definitely good with directions.

Not only literally in a tour setting but also in his expertise as a development technocrat with the United Nations.

He is the man behind Co-Rset, an innovation he describes as fun, homegrown and youth-centred that transformed how things are done at the office he has held since June 2019 as the country’s resident representative for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

He is now leaving this position to be UNDP’s new deputy director in the Bureau of External Relations and Advocacy.

Having previously served in South Africa, Mr Badawi describes his time in Kenya as fulfilling. “I have made great friendships here and always looking forward to coming back,” he says.

He says his team at the UNDP Kenya country office is amazing, talented, creative and dedicated with the capacity to adapt to challenging circumstances.

His move to Kenya was at a period when the UNDP was undertaking a disruptive, painful and protracted change of management, as he described it previously in an article. He said many performance metrics were in the red.

It is the reason why Co-Reset came to play. “Co-Reset, which was launched only one month after I arrived in Kenya, went on to receive UNDP’s inaugural People for 2030 Champion award, garnering much global and national attention for the scale, speed and impact of results it had achieved,” Mr Badawi says.

“The depth and breadth of the Co-Reset agenda enabled the UNDP Kenya team to respond to the diverse challenges that came our way, more significantly Covid-19.

“Our interventions were informed by the national, county and UN Covid-19 Socio-Economic Response plans, all of which were substantively and technically led by UNDP.”

He says innovation, spearheaded by their dynamic Accelerator Lab, was at the heart of the responses. All these kept the youth at the centre, given that 75 per cent of Kenya’s population is under the age of 35.

“It is clear we will not achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) if we do not focus specifically on the needs of youth in Africa,” says Mr Badawi.

To ensure the focus is on the youth, in October 2020, he established the UNDP Kenya Youth Sounding Board (YSB), a multi-stakeholder youth platform that guides and informs all the UNDP’s work in the country.

This is to ensure everything done in governance, inclusive growth, or environment and resilience are youth-centric.

“The platform has gained momentum and it’s good to see that other UNDP country offices in Africa are establishing similar-sounding boards modelled around the Kenyan example,” he says. Mr Badawi says Kenya has been making remarkable progress towards the attainment of the SDGs, ranking at 118 out of 165 globally and among the top 10 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.

He said this is from Kenya’s reporting about 131 indicators out of the possible 231 with new sources of data likely to increase the number to about 166 within 2022.

“Out of the 14 SDGs whose data was collectable, six are moderately improving and one, SDG 13, on track while the remaining seven are either stagnating or decreasing,” says Mr Badawi.

However, in the past two years, the country has been faced with Covid-19 affected other nations and saw over two million Kenyans sliding into poverty within the first six months of the pandemic.

This is due to the impacts and accompanying containment measures as both local and external supply chains were disrupted, leading to job losses across the economy.

“Even before full recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, the Russia-Ukraine war is aggravating food, energy and financial crisis across African countries and Kenya has also been affected,” Mr Badawi says.

He says the Kenya Economic Survey 2022 showed strong economic growth at 7.5 per cent per cent in 2021 as both the services and industry sectors recovered from Covid-19.

“However, the cost of living has risen, eroding the purchasing power among the low-income people and threatening to sink more people into poverty.”

He says Kenya’s Vision 2030 has been instrumental in assisting the achievements of SDGs. “In addition, devolution, which was designed to take services closer to the people, offers a new fit for development for the country and more effective service delivery channels for development,” Mr Badawi says.