Estonia’s Inaugural Envoy to Kenya Aims to Foster Digital Ties

Estonia's first-ever Ambassador to Kenya, Daniel Erik Schaer, presenting his credentials to President Ruto at State House, Nairobi on December 7. PHOTO: PCS

Estonia bills itself as the world’s first, and most likely only, totally digital country, and its inaugural envoy, Daniel Erik Schaer, who presented his credentials to President William Ruto at State House in Nairobi last week, aspires to “help Kenya become the most digital society in Africa.”

Although Schaer is not a resident ambassador, the Kenyan Foreign Ministry describes his appointment as a significant milestone for the two countries.

He told Kenyan Foreign Policy that his goal is to bring Estonia and Kenya closer together in areas such as innovation, entrepreneurship, UN collaboration, and culture.

Estonia launched a new generation digital identity, popularly known as the Estonia Smart ID, in February 2017, which is now used by at least 73,000 people in signing contracts, declaring income and filing tax returns, registering businesses, voting electronically, and accessing financial and other public and private sector services.

Kenya has ambitious intentions to join the league of digital economies by providing every citizen with a digital identity, and Estonia looks forward to sharing some lessons.

When then Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid visited Kenya two years ago, she described how her country had established one of the world’s most advanced e-government systems and fostered a real digital society.

Estonia, a post-Soviet Union country, has made significant strides in e-governance and is home to numerous tech startups.

Schaer, in line with his goals, seeks to foster partnerships that can contribute to Kenya’s digital ambitions.

The Estonian Centre for International Development (ESTDEV) has recently established a project management unit in Nairobi, managing a substantial international project supporting Kenya’s digitalization efforts.

ESTDEV Kenya will oversee a 2.4-million-euro international initiative in collaboration with the European Union and the German Development Cooperation Agency (GIZ).

The project promotes Kenya’s digitization and the development of an open and inclusive digital society as part of the Team Europe Initiative (TEI) on Human-Centered digitization.

According to Tallinn, Schaer stated that Estonian companies were briefed on business potential in Kenya in collaboration with an Estonian Business and Innovation Agency representative in Nairobi.

“It was in Nairobi where Latitude59 organised its first African startup event,” he said.

Schaer went on to say that Estonia was willing to share its educational skills.

“Our universities are already working together. We promote the development of Kenyan teachers’ skills. Estonia and Kenya prioritise the well-being and expanded possibilities for young people, particularly girls.”

The first ever Estonian envoy has already met the ICT Minister, Eliud Owalo, KWS and Foreign Affairs officials.

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