Kenya, Estonia call for global effort to tackle Covid-19, climate change

Thursday September 09 2021
State House

Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta at State House, Nairobi, on September 9, 2021. PHOTO | PSCU


Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Estonian counterpart Kersti Kaljulaid say the world must come together and make efforts to overcome the effects of Covid-19 and climate change.

The two leaders issued their call after a meeting at State House, Nairobi, which also marked the first time the Estonian leader was visiting Africa.

The two heads of state noted that increased investment, digital transformation and trade will be crucial in boosting ties between Kenya and Estonia.

However, they emphasised that more efforts should be focused on Covid-19 and climate change, the two key issues that have affected lives of people of all walks of life and social classes across the globe.

“The devastating effects caused by Covid-19 on a global scale require immediate and effective action by the international community as a whole to address it. The two presidents agreed on the need for universal access to vaccines against Covid-19 and urged the international community to increase the sharing of the vaccines to ensure vaccination for all,” they said in a joint communique.

Ms Kaljulaid arrived on Wednesday night in a low-profile trip which has been termed to be of great significance. A vocal campaigner for women’s rights, President Kaljulaid’s term in office is expected to end this year.


 She is also the UN Global Advocate for Every Woman and Every Child, whose role is to promote rights of women and children.

Both Kenya and Estonia are serving in the UN Security Council as non-permanent members until the end of 2022. The two leaders say the Council is an important platform to push for solutions to challenges affecting everyone.

“The two Heads of State emphasised the urgent need to address climate change and its impact on the environment and the need to increase global efforts in this regard. The two Heads of State embraced multilateralism as the most appropriate path for economic and social recovery in times of the pandemic,” the joint communique noted.

The UN members are expected to meet later in November in Glasgow for a conference of parties, COP26, to a climate framework agreement.

Estonia, a member of the European Union, has often played its roles in Africa through the EU.  It only has one resident embassy on African soil in Cairo, Egypt. On Thursday, President Kaljulaid said she supports the recent Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the European Union and the East African Community.

The EPA was supposed to provide for certain privileges to goods from the East African Community into the EU market, in exchange for progressive access for EU goods into the region. But only Kenya has gone ahead with the implementation of the deal after other EAC members cited a lack of protection for their local industries. 

President Kaljulaid, whose country is considered one of the most digitalised in the world, was expected to meet with Safaricom chiefs, officials of tax-hailing app Bolt and senior officials at the Ministry of Education at separate times, as well as attend a business-to-business event at the Strathmore Business School in Nairobi.

Estonia was among the pioneers of e-voting, trialing online voting for municipal elections in 2015. It has continued to implement the electronic voting system, which was also used during election that saw Ms Kaljulaid cling to the presidency.

The country runs e-ID system, one of the most advanced in the world, which allows owners to sign on travel documents or even insurance certification remotely. It means that people can apply for travel documents without setting foot in the bureau. They also have an e-residency permit, which allows people including those outside the country to access certain services electronically. The country was known for e-schooling, long before Covid-19 forced schools to implement one.

In Estonia, parents can remotely check their children’s performance at school and contact teachers directly. 

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, though, has said it will leverage on its 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 continental body African Union whose headquarters are based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.