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“Estonia feels like Europe’s Silicon Valley,” claimes Dino Balloti, Executive Director of the Namibia Investment Promotion and Development Board


Dino Ballotti BCS Koolitus ESTDEV
ESTDEV recently unveiled 11 projects in Africa that have been awarded funding, of which six take place in Namibia and three in collaboration with the Namibia Investment Promotion and Development Board (NIPDB).

As one of the priority areas of development cooperation between Estonia and Namibia is entrepreneurship, cooperation with NIPDB will ensure a strong partnership in the business landscape.

Located strategically in the Office of the President, the NIPDB serves as the first point of call for potential investors wanting to do business in Namibia. Its aim is to make Namibia the investment destination of choice by making it easy to do business there, and this begins with eliminating red tape and driving policy reforms. Dino Ballotti is leading the agency since 2021.

Dino Ballotti, how did you discover Estonia, and what were your first impressions?

Dino Ballotti (DB): I have to say, I’m a bit biased now, because I truly fell in love with Tallinn and Estonia as a country during my trip this spring. It was a captivating experience. The moment that I set foot in the country, I was just speechless. The efficiency and the forward thinking were very clear to me, and the e-governance systems that I was exposed to – it almost felt like Europe’s Silicon Valley. Engaging with the startup ecosystem, there was a lot of ingenuity and creativity. It was such a mind-blowing experience. A lot of the things we’re trying to do now in Namibia are off the back of those learnings.

If you asked me what Estonia is two years ago, I would’ve said, “Look, it’s a country.” Now, I think that the work ESTDEV is doing has engaged us in Namibia as a government and has propelled our understanding of the country. It’s the catalyst for us to now start to do some really good strategic work with Estonia.

What is the situation like in the Namibian business landscape – in other words, what are the challenges and opportunities?

DB: The Namibian business landscape is very dynamic. I would also say that it’s an evolving environment – we’re an emerging economy. We have our challenges almost like any other country, but I also think that there are many opportunities. Namibia is one of the very few African countries, or even countries globally, that intends to double its GDP in the next five years. This is really off the back of oil and gas, as well as our green hydrogen mega-economy that we’re trying to push as a country.

The commitment of the government, if we’re talking about diversification and investor-friendly policies, is attracting a lot of foreign countries for local investment as well. For example, we’re quite proud that we recently launched a digital nomad visa. It was quite an exciting – or rather enlightening – understanding from Estonia, to see how you don’t have to have a large population to have a great impact.

When we think of some of the structural challenges: we are still a developing economy, and that means that we still face challenges around housing, which is a fundamental need for anyone. Public-private partnership is crucial for our economic landscape, but there’s always going to be room for more and more growth and enhancement. Currently, when we talk about collaboration between the government and private entities, we have seen some bottlenecks. But I think as a government and as the people of Namibia, we’re not really looking at the challenges. We’re really just looking at the opportunities, like building stronger partnerships. We’re really proud and excited for what’s coming for Namibia.

Reflecting on your visit to Estonia, what kind of opportunities do you see when it comes to the Estonia-Namibia partnership? 

DB: Drawing on some of the inspiration from the Estonian journey, I truly do believe that there are many solutions that can make a significant impact. I recall TalTech, which made me feel very warm and welcome in Tallinn. So, for example, how do we bring together TalTech and our universities here in Namibia, and how do we ensure that they collaborate? This is how you [in Estonia] nurture local entrepreneurs, so how do we use that to then drive our innovation?

I think we can definitely learn a lot from the innovation ecosystem. We believe that the innovation hubs and technology incubators, like LIFT99, can really spark innovation, which can essentially create employment opportunities, but also can help propel the next unicorns. We believe that if we can leverage digital solutions to improve governance, we will attract huge investment into the country and as much as we all want investment in the country, we want sustainable development to be at the core. For it to be sustained, it needs to be mutually beneficial. We believe that, through digital solutions, we can foster a smart partnership with Estonia.

Recently, ESTDEV unveiled 11 new projects in Africa, of which six are in Namibia and three with NIPDB. Congratulations! What are your expectations, and what are you hoping to achieve?

DB:  The projects are actually the outcome of the meetings that ESTDEV organised while I was visiting Tallinn. It’s so beautiful to see the outcome of a visit, because going there, there was really no expectation that there must be projects run by our agency, or even by Namibia. For us to know that Namibia got six of the 11 projects, that’s really exciting for the country. When we talk about the “Entrepreneurial Minds” project and the collaboration with TalTech, here’s what I always say – you don’t know what you don’t know. So we’re really excited to see and learn about the best know-how and definitely look forward to the training programme. And, of course, this will be a big win as we get more Namibians exposed to it and have them experience what a really advanced economy looks like.

My takeaway from the project with Tehnopol is the key term, “pre-accession”. I think there’s so much work that needs to go into how to get an investment or how to get your business scalable. We currently don’t have enough players in that pre-accession stage, so, it’s definitely welcomed, and I think it hits the nail on the head. The last one was digital skills training with BCS Koolitus. When we talk about digital skills, those learnings from BCS have been developed since the independence of Estonia, and I think there’s no better organisation to help us drive our narrative as Namibia. If we can enhance it and leverage these digital skills, I think Namibia will be a better place for all entrepreneurs and small businesses.

Why do you think that development cooperation between Estonia and Namibia is important, and what are the things that Estonia can learn from Namibia? Because, as we have mentioned previously, development cooperation isn’t just one-sided – it’s a partnership.

DB: Development cooperation between Estonia and Namibia is of paramount importance. It embodies the spirit of international solidarity, where countries with their own unique experiences and strengths can foster mutual growth and sustainable development. If we talk about the exchange of knowledge and expertise in Estonia, it’s advanced in a number of areas. We talk about digital innovation, we talk about governance, and we even talk about entrepreneurship. How does this support Namibia’s own development journey? By sharing these insights, Estonia can really contribute to our enhancement in some of these fields.

Namibia has its own unique history and culture as a country. There’s definitely some unique learnings Namibia has that we believe we can also share with our Estonian counterparts. If we speak of balanced economic growth and social inclusivity, I think what Namibia has done is noteworthy. Estonia can learn from some of these initiatives, and we believe that there are many things that we can also learn from Estonia.

Thank you, Dino, for this conversation! 

DB: I think there are so many similarities between Estonia and Namibia. And ESTDEV, being just two years old, has really made a great impression on NIPDB in Namibia. I think there’s so much scope and opportunity for the Estonian private sector players and government institutions to support, learn, and enhance what Namibian enterprises are doing. We’re very excited for these three projects, and when they work – and they will work – we can gradually expand our cooperation. And who knows, maybe in thirty or forty years’ time when we have this conversation again, we will say, “Wow, there are thousands of people moving between the countries,” or, “There are hundreds of digital nomad visas being allocated to Estonia.” I think those are the outcomes that we want to see in the long run.


ESTDEV and NIPDB got into contact during Estonia’s visit to Namibia. As there was already an ongoing project on the topic of entrepreneurship, ESTDEV saw an opportunity with NIPDB to strengthen cooperation between the countries. Soon enough, Dino Ballotti, Executive Director of NIPDB, was on his way to Estonia to meet with potential project partners. The fruits of these meetings can be seen in the three upcoming projects taking place between NIPDB and different Estonian organisations (TalTechTallinn Science Park Tehnopol, and BCS Koolitus). “Estonian development cooperation supports entrepreneurial and future-oriented solutions. In cooperation with the Namibian Investment Promotion and Development Board, which supports both start-up businesses and investments in the country, ESTDEV can encourage innovation and development in Namibia and create cooperative ties between the two countries,” commented Nelli Timm, ESTDEV’s Regional Advisor for Africa.

Cover photo: BCS Koolitus