Date posted: 22/09/2017 4 min read

It’s back to Africa for the UN’s Avani Shah CA

As senior budget and finance officer with United Nation Habitat in Kenya, Avani Shah CA works on a housing and slum upgrade project in Africa, Caribbean and Pacific.

In Brief

  • Based in Nairobi, her daily work involves budgeting for UN grants and funds received from donors.
  • Ten years of working in Sydney as an Australian CA was a huge plus in landing the job.
  • As a CA with a good education, she’s confident when presenting to a room full of strangers.

(Pictured: Avani Shah CA Senior budget and finance officer with United Nations.)

What is your current position? 

At the moment, I work for the United Nations in Nairobi, the capital and largest city of Kenya. It’s famous for Nairobi National Park, the world’s only game reserve found within a major city.

My position is senior budget and finance officer with UN Habitat. I currently work with a team on a project called “Housing and Slum Upgrade” in African, Caribbean and the Pacific.

How did you find yourself there?

While I was studying for the CA qualification, I worked with a firm in business services. I continued with CA firms for a few more years, then got into corporates, where I worked as a finance officer for a few companies, one of them a medical consultancy.

I had applied for a role with the United Nations and within six months was fortunate enough to receive a reply that they were interested in me joining them. My experience working in finance and administration for ten years in Sydney and being an Australian CA was a huge plus-point in getting the job.

What does your typical day look like?

My work on a daily basis, in a nutshell, involves budgeting for various grants and funds received from donors. It entails extracting information and generating expenditure reports from information systems, preliminary analysis of the extracted information and reports generated, and highlighting any areas of concern.

I need to ensure that pledges, contributions and expenditures are both recorded and in compliance with international public sector accounting standards (IPSAS). I also monitor the status of voluntary contributions and ensure we meet the reporting requirements of donors.

What do you like most and least?

I love travelling and meeting new people, their culture and society. I love to learn languages, so I have been studying both French and Spanish at lunchtime classes provided by the United Nations. As for my dislikes, I do not like to be idle and wondering what might be next.

Because the CA designation is known globally, it makes it easy to get a good job in any part of the world.
Avani Shah CA Senior budget and finance officer with United Nations

Kenya is an amazing place and it’s where I was born and brought up. I had a wonderful childhood here, exploring Kenyan beaches, wildlife safaris and mountains. I wanted my kids to enjoy the same. We got an opportunity to go back to Kenya and we took it.

My husband, who is also a CA, now owns part of a huge company in the Kenyan furniture industry. We share our childhood experiences with our kids and they absolutely love it.

When you chose accountancy, where did you expect to end up?

I had a vision of working in a dynamic environment and travelling the world. I didn’t know exactly what or where, but I’m delighted with how this has worked out. 

Being a CA helps me to be confident when standing in a room full of strangers giving a presentation. The CA designation shows potential employers you have had a quality of education, with support and guidance along the way. Because the CA designation is known globally, it makes it easy to get a good job in any part of the world.

Would you recommend an overseas posting?

Yes, I would definitely recommend an overseas posting, as you get to work with many different cultures and in a committed team environment.

Related: Interview with Kofi Annan 

Nobel Peace Prize winner and former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on immigration and the need for chartered accountants to support the UN's Sustainable Development Goals. 



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