For the last month I’ve been working from Nairobi, Kenya. There’s lots of work being done in the region by our partners. For instance, in both our MFSII consortia (Connect4Change and WASH Alliance), programmes will be implemented in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Uganda. To better assist our partners locally in using our tools more efficiently we have concluded that a local presence in the region will be of value. Here’s a recap of what I’ve been up to in Kenya.

My working space, dubbed the ‘Mac Island’, at the Nailab in Nairobi, with @smusyoka and @oballojohn.

Working at Nailab

I’ve been fortunate enough to get a place to work from at the Narobi Incubation Lab (Nailab). The Nailab is a place where upcoming smart and business savvy entrepreneurs are assisted in turning their ideas into viable businesses. It’s a very vibrant place with lots of young talent who develop internet and mobile phone applications. Or as Samuel Gichuru aka @SamGichuru (Director of the Nailab) boasts: “It’s the Silicon Valley of Kenya”. Below you can see the short video interview I did with Sam, in which he explains what the Nailab is all about.

The Nailab is supported by the 1%Club our strategic partner with whom we now share work space in Amsterdam (the Amlab). While I was here I joined in on the 1%Event Nairobi that was being broadcasted live from the Nailab to the rest of the world. I managed to get some videos online that day with participants. Local star Isaac Osiemo (nicknamed Zacck) helped me out tremendously by being the video reporter for the day. You can take look at the videos over on Akvo.tv.

This info commercial for the 1%Event was developed by one of the incubatees here, Vive Visuals. It’s really cool and explains clearly what the Run With The Cheetahs 1%Event was all about.

Talking transparency

I’ve been in touch with the people working at the Dutch Embassy here. I explained our role in the partnership with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to open up their development aid data through the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) standards.

In 2012 we’re planning to extend this work with two embassies. Kenya has been shortlisted to possibly be one of them. This is very exciting stuff! It’ll be interesting to see how our tools can help in that setting.

Peter van der Linde presenting Akvo to the water team of UN-HABITAT in Nairobi, Kenya. 18 October 2011.

As mentioned in Frodo’s previous blog from the US, we’re actively engaging various UN agencies to help increase transparency. I’ve met the people at the UNICEF regional office in Kenya to discuss how we could try and get that going. Peter joined me for one week here and we got the opportunity to present Akvo to a group from UN-HABITAT. This turned out to be a great meeting! Just as we have started a pilot with UNDP to use Akvo’s tools we’re now also exploring longer term partnership opportunities with UN-HABITAT.

WASH Alliance gets going

Previously in May, Kathelyne and I joined in the WASH Alliance mission that was being held in Kenya. At that time the selection of partners and the planning of activities were in the very early stages of development. As of now activities are finally getting started. The activities linked to the Kenyan WASH Alliance program will be implemented in the Kaijado region. The program is already visible online. Here you can see what’s it all about and which partners are involved, and follow progress on the work that’s being done. Peter and I joined AMREF on a field trip to one of the locations in Kaijado where we saw how, for the first time, local Masai communities (predominantly pastoralists) have started to practice farming. Here are interviews I shot in the field with George and Fillipa.

To sum up…

So, how should I summarise my experiences from my month here? To start, Nairobi is THE place to be at the moment for activities in Eastern Africa. There’s a booming IT industry here that is really taking off, with a mobile phone sector that’s firmly driving new innovations. Lots of players in the development industry have a presence here. It really is the ideal place to get Akvo more locally embedded. You really need to be here to get a sense of what’s happening in the region and how one can help local partners share the work they do more widely. Sometime early next year I’m planning to startup our Akvo East Africa presence here in Nairobi on a longer term footing. So stay tuned!

Luuk Diphoorn is project coordinator with Akvo and is leading its East Africa strategy.