Estonia delegates at the African Tech Festival have shared ways the continent can replicate the country’s tech startup success. Estonia has produced ten global unicorns from its tech ecosystem.
Estonia’s startup ecosystem success can be replicated in Africa. This was said by Sandra Sarav, deputy secretary general for business at the Estonia ministry of economic affairs and communications, at the ongoing Africa Tech Festival in Cape Town, South Africa. With a population of 1.3 million inhabitants, the country has produced ten global unicorns—companies valued at more than $1 billion. These include include Skype, Bolt, and Wise.
Sarav stated that a determined effort towards creating an enabling environment for digitalisation was key to the country’s ecosystem success. “Over 90% of social services are online,” said Sarav. “This has been through both government determination and private sector innovation and I believe that is possible in Africa.”
Sarav also added that an active diaspora, a compact ecosystem where stakeholders have easy access to each other, and a regulatory framework which facilitates innovation were also key. Estonia, for example, has a startup visa which makes it easier for startups to source global talent.
On what Africa can learn from the Estonia ecosystem, Liisi Org, founder of Latitude59, an Estonian startup and tech event, stated that startups on the continent should aim for a global audience from day one. “Companies like Bolt wouldn’t be global if they had just focused on Estonia’s 1.3 million people market.”
Responding to a question from TechCabal on how Latitude59 is exploiting synergies with the African ecosystem, Org stated that in December, they will be hosting a version of the event in Nairobi, Kenya. The event, to be hosted in collaboration with Tech Safari, will include founders, investors and other ecosystem players from Estonia and numerous African markets. “There is a lot of interest in Africa from Estonian companies and through these kinds of engagements, a lot of opportunities and partnerships can be identified on both sides.”
The event will also feature a pitch competition with winners having the opportunity to win an investment of 100,000 euros and a spot in the Startup Wise Guys accelerator program. Winners will also get to compete in the main event pitching competition in Estonia in May 2024.