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Talent partnership projects illustrate the benefits of development cooperation


Talent Partnership Estonia Kenya
The Estonian Centre for International Development (ESTDEV) co-hosted a side event on 24 April during the Connected Africa Summit.

Representatives from the Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian, and Kenyan public and private sectors discussed how talent partnerships can address global skills shortages in the ICT sector.

Digital Explorers 2, a talent partnership project implemented by ESTDEV in Estonia, brings Estonia’s and Kenya’s ICT sectors closer together in a mutually beneficial development cooperation project.

“We see the potential of Kenyan IT specialists to come to our region to learn and come back home to build the IT sector here in Kenya,” said H.E. Daniel Schaer, Estonia’s Ambassador to Kenya, in his opening remarks at the event.

We sat down for an interview with Berk Erdem, ESTDEV’s project manager for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, who explained the nature of talent partnership projects.

What is a talent partnership, and why is it important to development cooperation?

Berk Erdem: Talent partnerships are a sustainable answer to the global skills shortages we are all facing in the ICT field. In an increasingly interconnected world, stakeholders shouldn’t work against each other but instead should work together to address these challenges. Talent partnerships allow for creating demand-driven, sustainable and mutually beneficial connections while closing the gaps between different ecosystems.

Regarding development cooperation, talent partnerships allow us to work with partner countries on cross-cutting themes of digitalisation, education and entrepreneurship. Through the Digital Explorers 2 talent partnership project, Estonia is working with Kenya to upskill Kenyan IT talent, providing additional training, employment opportunities and networking options. 

Why are such projects necessary? What is their end goal?

Erdem: Skills shortages in the ICT field affect all markets worldwide. As ICT talent is an increasingly scarce resource, we need comprehensive approaches to invest in the sustainable development of ICT talent, taking care not to fuel brain drain.

Employers are eager to explore Kenya’s pool of ICT talent, as they are motivated and highly skilled. Talent partnership projects, by nature, have the concept of “triple win” at heart. In this project’s case, a triple win means Estonia, Kenya, and individual employees will gain something from this experience.

Why is Estonia participating in such a talent partnership project with Kenya?

Erdem: From a development cooperation perspective, we are already working with our Kenyan partners on various projects covering three main areas: digitalisation, education and entrepreneurship. This project offers a unique opportunity to work on all three areas simultaneously. Also, through internships and training in Estonia, we enable Estonia and Kenyan ICT ecosystems to unite and create further synergies. While we provide Estonian expertise to Kenyan specialists, Estonian companies also learn from their Kenyan counterparts, facilitating mutual knowledge exchange and growth.

Who will benefit from such projects, and how? In this case, how is this mutually beneficial for both Kenya and Estonia?

Erdem: Estonian companies can tap into the skilled talent pool of Kenyan ICT specialists to address skills shortages, create new connections in the Kenyan market, and learn from Kenyan experiences.

Kenya is winning by gaining upskilled, well-networked IT talents who can bring fresh perspectives to Kenya after the programme and further assist with Kenya’s digital transformation.

In the middle of these two are the IT workers. After completing a four-month programme in Estonia, they gain new skills, experiences, and perspectives and become global-ready IT talents, which opens up new doors for them in their careers.

In November 2023, ESTDEV, Osmos, and Startin.LV launched a second Digital Explorers programme, an ICT-focused knowledge and talent exchange initiative between the Baltics and Kenya, Armenia and Nigeria. Under the framework of this project, Estonia will host 20 trainees and six representatives from the private and public sector in Kenya. The Action is co-funded by the European Union via the Migration Partnership Facility of ICMPD.

Supported and endorsed by the European Commission, Digital Explorers is at the forefront of the EU’s push to include the private sector in fostering sustainable economic growth globally and promote mutually beneficial talent partnerships between the EU and partner regions. Digital Explorers II is the first collaborative project between the Baltic States to be implemented in Africa.