Estonia is simply impressive. Considered “the world’s most digital nation”, 99% of Estonia’s government services – including voting in elections – are available online. Estonia is home to more start-ups per person than Silicon Valley. We wanted to see for ourselves: how did Estonia pull off its astounding digital transformation, and how can private-sector led national innovation networks strengthen a country's innovation and startup ecosystem?
Make-IT in Africa, together with The Estonian Centre for International Development (EstDev) and Garage48, gathered a delegation of 14 representatives of private sector-led African national innovation networks from Eastern, Western and Southern Africa to participate in Estonia’s largest startup conference Latitude59 and gain valuable insights into the Estonian startup ecosystem.
The highlights from our delegation trip to Tallinn, Estonia. The team had a blast!
Our delegation was also impressive: Chepkemoi Magdaline from Association of Countrywide Innovations Hubs (Kenya), Mercy Kimalat from Association of Startup and SME Enablers of Kenya, Steve Tchoumba from KmerTech (the National Hubs Network in Cameroon), Akum Akyk Etta from Mountain Hub (Cameroon), Junior Gilbert Buregyeya from Startup Uganda, Josiah Eyison from Ghana Hubs Network, Angel Ezekiel Kiologwe from Tanzania Hubs Network, Anne Lawi Kihu and Joan Mwangi from Pangea Trust (Kenya), Sheilla Otieno from Seedstars (Kenya), Wangiwe Kambuzi from Mzuzu E-Hub (Malawi), Simunza Muyangana from BongoHive (Zambia), Ornella Nkurunziza from Rwanda Innovation Fund, and Maman-Rouffahi Koabo from Afric'innov (Niger) all spend almost two weeks in Tallinn to meet with the key players in Estonia's public and private sectors and learned more about the blooming startup scene.
The overarching goal of this African-European exchange was to foster a dynamic transfer of knowledge between the two continents, with a specific focus on sharing best practices in startup ecosystem development, digital transformation, and effective ways of collaboration between the private and public sectors.
Latitude59 is Estonia’s flagship startup and tech event, which brought together over 3,000 attendees, 400 investors and 160 speakers. The vibrant event at Tallin’s Kultuurikartel did not disappoint. All delegates enjoyed three days of side events, sessions, workshops, networking and one-on-one meetings.
“The opportunity to witness first-hand the work and passion of the startup scene in Estonia has left a strong impression on me. This experience has been a truly rewarding. It serves as a tangible reminder of the importance of connecting with like-minded individuals, embracing collaboration, and fostering growth. By nurturing these connections and seizing the potential for mentorship and reciprocal learning, we can fuel our personal and professional development.”
Over the weekend, the African delegates ventured out into the beautiful nature of Estonia. The serene walk in the bog (Estonian 10.000 year-old swamp or wetlands) was a reminder of how an ecosystem is always more than just one part: In Estonia, the hustle and buzz of the tech start-up scene is complemented with beautiful, quiet nature, full of history. Estonians come out to he bog after work and on the weekends, to detox and regain energy and inspiration.
Next followed a Tallinn ecosystem tour, with stimulating visits to a number of players: Estonia’s E-Governance Academy, Startup Estonia, EstDev, Startup Wise Guys, the Estonian ICT Cluster and a stint at Estonia’s currently most valued startup, Bolt. Thank you to all the partners taking the time and meeting with us!
A special thanks goes out to the entire Garage48 team. It is because of their superb organisation and hosting that this trip will forever be memorable and shaping the future work of African innovation enablers. Täname! (Thank you!)
About the author: Anna Vambe is a member of our Make-IT in Africa team, based in Germany.
Images: © GIZ/Rene Lutterus