Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid landed in Kenya’s capital Nairobi on Thursday in her first trip to the country that could carry a lot of significance.
She was received at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport by Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs Raychelle Omamo and Defence counterpart Monica Juma.
Ms Kaljulaid will hold talks with Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta as well as other senior government officials on her three-day official visit.
The trip’s detailed itinerary is yet to be publicised. However, the president is scheduled to meet Safaricom chiefs, officials of taxi-hailing app Bolt, and senior officials at the Ministry of Education, which could signal leveraging the IT expertise of the digital savvy state.
The European Union member state, which has heavily embraced the digital world in most functions, was among the pioneers of e-voting – testing online voting for municipal elections in 2015. It has continued to implement the system and in the last election implemented electronic voting alongside physical voting.
The country runs an e-ID system, one of the most advanced in the world, which allows owners to sign on travel documents or even insurance certification remotely. People can apply for travel documents without setting foot in the bureau.
Estonia also has an e-residency permit which allows people, including those outside the country, to access certain services electronically.
The country had been known for e-schooling, long before Covid-19 forced schools globally to implement online learning systems. In Estonia, parents can remotely check on their children’s performance at school and contact teachers remotely.
Other digitalised services in Estonia include delivery services by robots, e-medical prescriptions, mobile parking, learning the local language and filing taxes.
Kenya has tried launching these services too, but some, like the school laptop project and a centralised ID system, have not yet kicked off. The laptop project, promised in 2013, has been embroiled in procurement controversy and is almost stalled.
Estonia, which has just two embassies on the continent, could leverage IT specialty to improve its business ties with the continent. According to the country’s ten-year Regional Strategy to 2030, it plans to open a full embassy in Nairobi by next year.
Traditionally, Estonia handled relations through a non-resident ambassador based in Cairo. The country also plans to enhance ties with the African Union whose headquarters is in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.