Resident Representative Speech during Visit by H.E President of Estonia Kersti Kaljulaid to Swiftlabs

September 14, 2021

UNDP Kenya RR Walid Badawi & H.E President of Estonia Kersti Kaljulaid visit Swiftlabs Kenya


·       Your Excellency, President of the Republic of Estonia, Mme Kersti Kaljulaid who is also our newly appointed UN Global Advocate for Every Woman Every Child Movement

·       H.E. Mrs Eva-Maria Liimets, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Your esteemed delegation

·       Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of ICT, Youth and Innovation, Mr.  Joe Mucheru

·       Your Excellency Ambassador Ado Lõhmus, Estonia’s Permanent Representative to UNEP

·       Engineer, John Tanui, CEO Konza Technopolis

·       Ms. Sheena Raikundalia, Director UK Kenya Tech Hub

·       Mr. Philip Thigo, Director Thunderbird school of Global Management Africa

·       Mr. David Ogiga, Chair of the Association of Countrywide Innovation Hubs

·       My UN Agency colleagues, Ms Fathiaa Abdalla UNHCR Representative

·       Our host, Mr. James Munyoki, Co- Founder, Swiftlab

·       My Team from UNDP, Innovators, Media, Guests, ladies and gentlemen,

·       All protocols observed,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Terre hommikust and Habari ya asubuhi

It gives me great pleasure to be here with you all this morning in this great diplomatic occasion between the Republic of Kenya and the Republic of Estonia.  I want to welcome all of you and I especially want to welcome the President of Estonia, H.E, Mme Kersti Kaljulaid on this maiden visit to Magical Kenya and indeed to Africa. Karibu Sana. It is a great honour to host you and to facilitate a space for discussion and conversation on matters of mutual interest to the two countries.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a defining force across the world. With devastating impact on health, jobs, businesses and lives, the pandemic has challenged the way many systems operate and exist and demanded shifts in how normalcy is perceived. The social and economic impact of this crisis has been profound and will continue to be so. Tackling COVID-19 and its impacts has demanded working across systems and sectors, for both public and private actors. Today, we have the opportunity to showcase one of the innovations that grew out of a dynamic collaboration between government, the development sector, academia and the private sector, we will hear the story of Swift Lab, the 1st Kenyan cargo drone manufacturer which was 1 of 15 winners in the Great COVID-19 Innovation Challenge which Mr. Ogiga just spoke about. We will learn more about Swift Lab shortly.

For UNDP, partnership and collaboration are critical elements in how we operate. Leveraging on our capacity on innovation and integration, UNDP has been working with partners to mitigate the effects of the pandemic with sustainable, resilient and rights-based solutions crafted with the public and private sectors. The potential impact of innovation in supporting social and economic development in developing countries is very dependent on the engagement and maturity of innovation ecosystems worldwide and it cannot be gainsaid that collaboration will be fundamental to the ecosystem’s growth and development.

We all have a role to play in facilitating an enabling environment for innovators to thrive. For its part, UNDP is keen to foster partnerships that build on the transformative power of digitalization, knowledge and innovation to address development challenges around the world. Globally, our recently approved Strategic Plan (2022-2025) has digital as a strategic enabler, and this is complemented by our Digital Strategy, these frameworks underpin UNDP’s determination to stay at the forefront of development thinking. At the regional level, UNDP is working towards delivering an agile UNDP Africa Digital Strategy and Programmatic Offer that is supported by a robust multi-stakeholder digital collaborative. Nationally, as part of our SDG integrator role, UNDP is bringing together other UN agencies to co-create and collaborate under the Kenya SDG Accelerator Lab as key drivers for infusing innovative approaches to development challenges such as youth unemployment as the frontier challenge we are tackling in Kenya. The SDG Accelerator Lab is a multi-stakeholder platform under the leadership of Government, led by H.E. CS Mucheru, and aims to accelerate and stimulate the innovation ecosystem towards growth and development.  The Lab forms part of the UNDP Global Accelerator Lab Network launched by the UNDP Administrator Mr. Achim Steiner in 2019. The UNDP Accelerator Lab Network is a service offering that explores new data, partnerships, solutions and testing prototypes and hypotheses to scale and grow local solutions to global and national challenges. It is an added value to the development sector in Kenya that will augment the vibrant technological innovation culture that already exists.

Allow me to take this moment to applaud the great efforts by the Government of Kenya under the leadership of the  MoICT and H.E. CS Joe Mucheru by providing a robust framework for innovation through the Digital Economy Strategy, setting up of the Kenya National Innovation Agency (KENIA), launching the Huduma Whitebox and establishing the Konza Technopolis Development Authority, as critical agents spurring this booming ecosystem.  The commitment of this Government to harnessing innovation and building partnerships, at both national and county levels, is incontrovertible.

With innovation, the opportunities are boundless. We must learn from countries like Estonia who have been at the forefront of innovation and digital transformation. We know that earning the public’s trust was a critical enabler in Estonia’s digital transformation success story and we look forward to learning more about that your Excellency as well as about your innovative policies and political culture centered on innovation, to your advances in the commerce, financial and education sectors. Estonia was one of the first countries to have widespread and accessible Wi-Fi. Skype, the video communication program, used around the world, is one of Estonia’s home-grown innovations, much like MPESA here in Kenya. There are many opportunities for cooperation, learning and partnerships between the two countries and we hope that this visit, Your Excellency, is the beginning of a great diplomatic relationship and digital revolution.

I also want to acknowledge the great work and commitment of all the partners here today. Kenya is celebrated as a hotbed of innovation and creativity thanks to you.

Let me close by recounting a famous Kenyan proverb that says, “one finger alone cannot kill even a louse.”  Let mention its Egyptian, more peaceful, corollary, “one hand alone cannot clap”.  Together we will scale to greater heights.

Asanteni sana.