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Nardos Bekele-Thomas


NARDOS BEKELE-THOMAS is the Chief Executive Officer for the Africa Union Development Agency- New Partnerships for Africa’s Development (AUDA- NEPAD). She commenced this role in May 2022 having been unanimously endorsed by the African Union (AU) Heads of State and Government during the 35th Ordinary Session of the AU.


Her immediate former role is as the Resident Coordinator of the United Nations (UN) and Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in South Africa. In 2016 she served as the Senior Director of the Office of the former UN Secretary-General, H.E. Ban Ki-Moon, in charge of the overall management of the Office of the Secretary-General, the Office of the Chef de Cabinet and that of the Deputy Secretary-General.


Madam Bekele-Thomas has also worked as the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in the Republic of Kenya and the Republic of Benin. In these roles she had the overall responsibility for high-level social, political, and economic policy advisory services to the highest Government authorities at national and local levels and to key private sector and civil society actors. Additionally, she has been responsible for the overall coordination of collective UN operational activities for development results as well as the delivery of effective UNDP programme of assistance aimed at promoting and supporting pro-poor and inclusive economic growth and development. The primary programmatic focus of her work includes policy dialogue at the highest level of national governance, strategic public-private sector consultations, resource mobilization, pro-poor policy and programme development and implementation at the local and national levels.


Prior to her appointment by the UN Secretary-General as Resident Coordinator and as Resident Representative by the UNDP Administrator, in Kenya and Benin, she served for over four years in Kenya as Deputy Resident Representative of UNDP with responsibility for the formulation and implementation of UNDP programme of assistance to the Republic of Kenya. This included support to national planning and development, private sector development, mitigation of the socioeconomic impact of HIV/AIDS, Governance, Capacity Building, Health Sector Reform as well as Strategies and programme for Poverty Reduction.


Ms. Bekele-Thomas’ professional experience and background in the field of development span a broad spectrum, including private sector development strategies and policies, public policy; decentralized governance and participatory development; public/civil service reform and management; public-private sector strategic partnerships; women and youth leadership; empowerment and employment; and Information, Education and Communication (IEC) for development. She is the author of numerous articles and monographs and member of various Professional Organizations including the Allied Social Sciences Associations (ASSA), and the American Economic Association.


As Private Sector Policy Adviser (1998-2001), Ms. Bekele-Thomas conducted extensive research on private sector development, supported the strengthening of African business associations, provided advisory services and played advocacy role in the development and management of micro, small and medium-scale enterprises. Based on her strong belief in promoting women an youth empowerment, she has carried out policy studies and developed programmes on the promotion of entrepreneurship and business skills training for employment and job creation. Ms. Bekele-Thomas has worked in collaboration with regional and international organizations, including the African Business Roundtable (ABR) and the Corporate Council on Africa to promote trade and investment in African Countries through private/public sector partnerships in the United States such as in the States of Connecticut, New Jersey and Arizona. She has served in technical and advisory capacities such as Technical Advisor to the Government of Uganda (1994-1998), on advocacy, formulation and successful implementation of Decentralized Governance and Private Sector Development and as a member of the Presidential Advisory Group, Republic of Benin (1990–1993), in which she helped initiate and conceptualize a pro-poor programme on the Social Dimensions of Development.


Over the last four decades, Ms. Bekele-Thomas has also lived and served in various capacities in Ethiopia (1974-1982), USA, (New York) (1983-1987 and 1998-2004), India (1987-88), Bhutan (1988-1989), Comoros Islands (1989-1990), Republic of Benin (l990-1993), and Uganda, (1994- 1998), promoting human development anchored on the principles of economic, social, and political rights for all.


Ms. Bekele-Thomas is a member of the Group of African Imminent Women, she is a recipient of the prestigious AU/DAF Award of “2015 Woman of Excellence” along with the Presidents of Liberia and former President of Malawi. She was also honored in 2007 as recipient of the Living Legend Achiever’s Award in recognition of her service and leadership role in the promotion of sustainable human development globally, particularly in Africa.


Ms. Bekele-Thomas holds a Master’s Degree in Economic Development, Monetary Economics and Econometrics from New York University (NYU).

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