Expanding Estonian Digital Solutions in Africa: Nearly 20 Years of Partnership in Namibia

Over the past two decades, Namibia has come to boast strong e-state foundations, a lively local startup ecosystem, and general education that is gaining momentum all the time. The shared knowledge and experience of Estonians have played an indispensable role in taking these ambitions from dreams to reality. The cooperative partnership between the Estonian Centre for International Development (ESTDEV) and Namibia has been a fruitful one since 2009, and Estonia is excited to continue its contributions to the country’s ongoing developmental leaps.

The diplomatic relationship between Estonia and Namibia, a coastal country in Southern Africa, began in 2004. When ambassadors considered the growing potential for cooperation between Estonia and Namibia, they recognized the most promising development areas as tourism, nature conservation, the establishment and promotion of business contacts, and the expansion of education and the sciences.

“Connections and cooperative efforts between the two countries have broadened over the past twenty years, and Namibia has added a new digital direction to each of its target areas. In the last two years, four digital transformation projects have been completed in Namibia, all of which have successfully achieved their goals,” said Nelli Maria Timm, ESTDEV’s Advisor for the South Africa region.

The presenting of the results of the Nam-X project.

Estonia’s digital partnership with Namibia began almost ten years ago, when a cooperation agreement between the Namibian government and the Estonian e-Governance Academy was signed. A data exchange system, dubbed Nam-X and similar to Estonia’s X-tee, was developed in collaboration with the Namibian Office of the Prime Minister. Thanks to a follow-up project with Cybernetica AS, the country now has a data exchange platform through which the e-government fully and successfully functions. The next step, which has already started, is the creation of an e-government service interface. Digital readiness studies, interoperability framework, development planning, and practical action plans created and suggested by Estonian experts give directions according to which the Namibian government can move toward a complete e-state.

Estonian Expertise: Entrepreneurship and Innovation

Together with the German development agency (GIZ), Estonia’s Garage48 promotes local startup ecosystems and cultivates relationships between key organisations in Southern Africa. Attention is especially placed on women and young people, whose entrepreneurship has a significant impact on both their society’s future and their own.

“Entrepreneurship and innovation require digital skills that enable society to adapt to today’s challenges. ESTDEV actively supports digital skills development, especially in social groups that lack the opportunities to acquire them,” noted Katrin Winter, Acting Head of ESTDEV’s Africa and Emerging Markets Department, emphasising the importance of digital education.

Community entrepreneurship is supported by the NGO Let’s Do It World, which in addition to involving Namibia in World Cleanup Day, has partnered with Let’s Do It Namibia to launch the educational platform ‘SEEP’, which raises environmental awareness amongst school children and the community. The pilot project of 50 schools, 3,000 students and teachers, and nearly 27,000 community members was so successful that SEEP is now being used in school programs across Namibia. Another great example – eKool is piloting digital tools for school management in Namibia in order to advance general education, making it more transparent and open.

Namibia: A Priority Partner in Africa

Now that the digitalization of Namibia has begun, the nation has a strong political will to effect a digital revolution. This offers many opportunities for Estonia. ESTDEV has established good working relationships with Namibian officials, international organisations, and European donors to move forward with new cooperation projects.

“Our goal in Africa, including Namibia, is to contribute to systemic changes that bring about sustainable economic growth and improve people’s well-being. This takes time, but looking at Estonia’s own history, we can say that digitalization enables rapid growth and accelerates a country’s development,” said Nelli Maria Timm, ESTDEV’s Advisor for the South Africa region.

Since 2009, Estonia has funded six projects in Namibia, totaling €450,000.

Watch the interview with Ambassador-at-Large for Africa Daniel Schaer and Mariin Ratnik, the Under-Secretary for Economic and Development Affairs of the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on The Daily Roundup with Nina:

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Estonian Centre for International Development is a government foundation that manages and implements Estonia’s participation in international development cooperation and humanitarian aid projects, with the aim of increasing Estonia’s contribution to global security and sustainable development.