When VSO volunteering leads to a stellar career.


Caroline Kende-Robb

As a VSO volunteer, Caroline found herself living in Tanji, a small fishing village in The Gambia. She learnt to speak Mandinka and worked hard to build trust with the community to better understand their risks, priorities and opportunities. She attributes this experience to laying the foundations for her career, never losing sight of the goal, to bring social justice to people like those with whom she lived so closely in Tanji.

Her global career has included 16 years in Washington DC with the World Bank and IMF, working in the Sustainable Development Network where she led the development of the Social Development Strategy across the World Bank’s portfolio, and introduced new agendas including education and gender, conflict and fragile states, gender equity and empowerment, and social dimensions of climate change.

This was followed with a tenure as the Executive Director of the Africa Progress Panel, working closely with its Chair and Founder, Kofi Annan. In this role, she worked with political and industry leaders to catalyse policy change, based on evidence-based research in Africa and across the globe. Although the organization was small, she led its transformation to become a recognised global leader in policy influence.

Back in the UK, Caroline acted as Chief Adviser to the Rt. Hon. Gordon Brown, at the International Commission on Financing Education, alongside President Kikwete, former President of Tanzania. Together with heads of state, global leaders, industry CEOs and civil society, she worked to invigorate the case for investing in education and raised substantial finance for an innovative global financing facility for transforming education.

As Secretary-General at CARE International, (CARE International is a 75-year-old global confederation working to fight poverty and social injustice in the world, with a specific focus on the empowerment of women and girls). Caroline led a major restructuring and change management process, creating substantial new public and private partnerships to raise funds. She was a spokesperson for CARE International on international platforms including education, gender-based violence and sustainable development, among other issues.

As Senior Adviser at the African Center for Economic Transformation, a pan-African think-tank, she advised the President on influencing policy across Africa and globally, including on the COVID-19 African response. Caroline worked with the WHO Special Envoy on COVID-19, and with Rt. Hon. Gordon Brown, helping to mobilize African and global leaders as part of a response to promote global solidarity and action for COVID-19.

Still following her passion for Africa, she recently accepted the position of Senior Director of Strategy and Operational Policies at the African Development Bank (AfDB) whose objective is to contribute to the sustainable economic development and social progress of African countries. Based in Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire since 2022. Caroline appreciates very much what an opportunity she has been given to be able to contribute to this unique African driven institution.

Caroline is also a trustee at CAMFED International, an NGO working with girls and young women in Africa on education and leadership, where I support the organization to develop global networks and strategic fundraising with many new partners.

Caroline is nominated in the global category ‘Women making Waves’ and will be sharing her story at the Inspiring Women awards Lunch on 17/5/2024.