Reimagining Development in Kenya – UNDP Accelerator Lab for Kenya launches

January 1, 2020

UNDP Kenya Resident Representative, Walid Badawi, speaks at the launch.

UNDP launched a network of Accelerator Labs embedded in 60 Country Offices across the globe – these were established with the aim of “future proofing” development progress. The Accelerator Lab network is an initiative by UNDP that seeks to address the complex and ever-changing 21st century challenges by accelerating learning through creating the world’s largest and fastest learning network around development challenges.

Kenya has a thriving and dynamic entrepreneurial and innovative culture - dubbed the “Silicon Savannah”, the World Intellectual Property Organisation ranked Kenya as the second leading innovation hub in Africa in the 2019 Global Innovation Index report. The last decade of Kenya’s innovation zeitgeist has been catalysed by the mobile banking revolution (M-Pesa), increased internet connectivity countrywide, mobile phone penetration and the explosion of digital platforms. It is within this rich history and context of innovation that the UNDP Accelerator Lab for Kenya is excited to launch into the Kenya ecosystem.

There are four key pillars for the Accelerator Lab for Kenya, around which the introduction and launch have been strategically designed.

  1. Partnerships - bringing the "unusual suspects" to the table
  2. Building on locally-sourced solutions with potential to scale
  3. Commitment to inclusion of marginalised groups and leaving no one behind
  4. Putting young people at the centre of development

In line with these 4 pillars, UNDP Kenya has been on a 3-part journey of introducing and launching the Accelerator Lab in Kenya.


Step 1 of the co-creation process

In October 2019, UNDP Kenya hosted a Stakeholder Consultative forum with the intention of creating an opportunity for a co-creation process that will enable the Accelerator Lab to identify priority development challenges in the country and possible solutions to address them. The forum brought together a mix of Government officials, private sector, development partners, academia, civil society organisations, UN agencies, youth groups, social entrepreneurs and innovators who collaboratively identified youth unemployment as the complex development challenge that the Lab should prioritise.

Harnessing the power of collective intelligence, the Accelerator Lab used the forum to map solutions to the challenge of youth unemployment, taking advantage of the wide breadth of perspectives and expertise in the room. The Stakeholder Consultative forum marked the first step in introducing the Accelerator Lab to the Kenyan ecosystem, and the start of the co-creation process towards re-imagining development in Kenya. Speaking at the Stakeholder Consultative forum, Mr Walid Badawi, the UNDP Resident Representative, emphasised the importance of partnership and invited a diverse plethora of stakeholders to support the Accelerator Lab on this journey.

Going straight to the source

In December 2019, UNDP Kenya in collaboration with UNV hosted a forum at Mount Kenya University, Nakuru campus – this engagement explored ideas for accelerating an inclusive future for Kenya by bridging the inequality gap. Kenya is a very youthful country, with approximately 75% of the population aged between 18 and 35, majority of whom are unemployed. Among this same youth population, there is also a strong sense of marginalisation and exclusion when it comes to access to opportunities, representation and participation in national processes. Therefore, creating an inclusive future for Kenya requires putting young people at the centre of development and empowering them to be key drivers of the solutions creation process. The Accelerator Lab used the Nakuru forum to build on the momentum and findings of the Stakeholders Consultative forum, where we listened to the young people of Nakuru with the aim of enriching the scope of ideas that came out of the Stakeholder forum in Nairobi.


Launching on International Volunteer Day

As part of the international observance of the International Volunteer Day (IVD), UNDP Kenya partnered with UNV and leveraged the IVD 2019 festival to officially launch the Accelerator Lab - joining other 59 Labs in the global network in experimenting and designing solutions to complex development challenges. The 2019 IVD activities themed around Economic and Social Development took place on 5th December and brought together Government, corporate entities, academic institutions and volunteer-involving organisations to recognise and promote volunteerism and its contribution towards attainment of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

At the festival, the Accelerator Lab set up an Innovation Lounge to engage young people and hear their ideas and initiatives that are addressing the youth unemployment challenge. Visitors to the Innovation Lounge were asked to share a message for the young people of Kenya in the spirit of Umoja.

UNDP Resident Representative, Mr Walid Badawi, highlighted the set of services that the Accelerator Lab was bringing to the table and stressed the importance of a systems thinking approach in tackling development challenges. He acknowledged the Government of Kenya and the UN in Kenya for their leadership and commitment towards addressing the most urgent development challenges for the people of Kenya.

Moving faster together

The UNDP Kenya Accelerator Lab is excited to be officially launched and invites you to join us on this journey of exploration, experimentation and innovation to tackle emerging issues in Kenya and ultimately shift the development trajectory for the people of Kenya. In the words of the great Wangari Maathai, “I’m very conscious of the fact that you can’t do it alone. It’s teamwork.”

Contact to find out more and share your thoughts! #AccLabKE

Authored by Lillian Njoro/ Head of Experimentation - Accelerator Lab Kenya