Interview: 5 Questions for Estonia’s New Consul in Kampala, HE Girisch Nair

Mr Girisch Nair is a successful businessman in East Africa. He’s the chairman of Technology Associates, a versatile tech company, which has been behind several transformative ICT projects in the region. He was recently appointed Consul representing a highly recognized country in the ICT world, the Republic of Estonia. We caught up with him to discuss what this new role, and Uganda-Estonia ties, entails.

1. Congratulations, upon your appointment as the Honorary Consul of Estonia in Uganda. What does the opening of the Consulate mean for Uganda and Estonia ties or people?

Nair: Thank you.
Opening of the Estonian Honorary Consulate in Uganda simply brings the two countries closer. It offers a channel for accessing information, collaboration and social exchange.

Estonia however also brings unique value to Uganda. It is common knowledge that Estonia is globally recognised as the world’s most digitally advanced nation. Every engagement of a resident with Government happens online. This enables efficient delivery of services, without bureaucracy or red-tape or any friction, at scale and at the lowest cost. Indeed a common joke is that the only time, a public sector service requires physical engagement in Estonia, is to get married.

A critical benefit of adopting such GovTech, is to help Governments run most cost-efficiently, transparently and accountably, thereby delivering tangible, impactful services.

The Estonian Honorary Consulate will aim to become a harbinger of collaboration between the Republic of Uganda and the Republic of Estonia. We should help in the fast tracking of engagements between the two nations, both at a Government level as well as between private sector, businesses or individuals. Our government agencies have already been visiting their counterparts in Tallin for a number of years, to benefit from technology knowhow and collaboration, across numerous spheres. We hope to scale this engagement better, for purpose.

We hope to interest Ugandan students, explore academic opportunities at Estonia’s world renowed universities in Tallin and Tartu. As well as assist Ugandan businesses, to benefit from quicker access to information and learn of collaboration opportunities with world leading Estonian businesses.

We truly believe such a platform will enhance economic and social exchange, for the mutual benefit of the two nations.

2. What do Ugandans and other residents in Uganda need to know about the Estonia Consulate in Kampala?

Nair: The Estonian Consulate is centrally located in Kampala, for convenient physical access at GIGA Business Park,  Plot 23, Yusuf Lule Road.
Ugandans can acquire a wide range of information about Estonia at the Consulate.
Visit to Estonia is through the application for a Shengen visa.
Information about a number of Estonia’s programs in Uganda can be availed at the Consulate.
Needless to say, the Consulate provides assistance to Estonian nationals and businesses in Uganda.

3. Estonia is billed as the most digitally advanced societies in Europe that there’s even wifi in forests, how will Uganda’s closer ties with Estonia benefit the tech industry or digital space in the country?

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Nair: That’s absolutely correct.
Estonia has been, for the past decade, disseminating their expertise, knowledge amd experience to numerous countries across the world.
Indeed Estonia has designed, built and operates NATO’s Cybersecurity defense infrastructure, since the past decade.
A number of countries in Africa are benefitting from such engagements and collaborations with the Estonian Government as well as Estonian businesses. The Estonian Development Agency (Estdev) is collaborating with the European Union, through the AU-EU D4D program, with a number of entities in the Ugandan Government and a great deal of knowledge transfer is already underway.

Uganda can benefit immensely as we progress into a digital economy. Our national development plan III, infact explicitly cites IT as a key pillar of our socio economic growth and transformation.
And rightly so. It is common knowledge that the top 5 companies in the world are all IT companies and they churn revenues in hundreds of multiples of GDPs of numerous countries, including Uganda. Many of these companies did not exist a decade or so ago.
And this industry is probably the largest providers of jobs and employment, globally. Our youth must plug into and thrive in this global industry.

The rise of IT, its pervasivity and its global impact, is therefore real and clear. Uganda needs to absolutely embrace this opportunity and develop our adoption, capability and expertise in this revolutionary industry and ensure our citizens, particularly our youth build capabilities to develop as capable, global citizens.

Our Ministry of ICT is championing this with great determination and capability and owns an annual  target of generating 35,000 ICT jobs. Our country has therefore the right vision, aspirations and ambition. And the Estonia HC wishes to work closely with Government and our businesses, to assist in catalysing their achievement of their goals.

There are very few countries globally, if any, that have deliberate programs to collaborate with Governments in developing national digital public infrastructure, like Estonia has.
As a Country, as we strive to adopt a lean, cost-effective Government, we can learn to implement similar digital platforms and drive worldclass, GovTech adoption.

4. Girisch Nair has built a reputation of a tech industry leader in East Africa, and your company TA, is behind several ground breaking digital projects in Uganda, how will you continue building this frontier with diplomatic duties?

Nair: As an active participant in the Ugandan IT industry, I have been fortunate to have a front row seat in the evolution of our country’s IT industry. Since the early 1990’s my business had great opportunities to transition a number of our most renowned  businesses houses, from manual systems to automated IT systems, across industries such as retail distribution, manufacturing, banking and hospitality. As we identified the most advanced, global  business solutions for these industries and painfully managed their successful implementation, we built unique competences in managing complex IT business projects, managing change and aiding in improving the products, processes and operations across these industries. We became an essential bridge between the expectations of world class IT vendors and our discerning local businesses, who wanted to adopt great solutions but were grappling with limited resources, both human and financial.
We were also active participants in the evolution of these industries themselves and helped drive a lot of this evolution through rhe best global technology.

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Given our success, we were probably the only Ugandan business at the time, to branch out into Kenya, Tanzania in the late 1990s. Today we have operations in 7 countries across East & Central Africa and our businesses there have undertaken projects across a further 20 countries, across the continent. This is a massive capability, developed across different  cultures and geographies, that Estonia &  Uganda can benefit from.

And we have carried responsible practices in our business. For example a few years ago, we established a collaboration with Kyambogo University where, we undertook an investment in building local capacity to augment our team, by training 20 young Ugandan software professionals from Kaymbogo, on one of the world’s most renowned, population scale ID platforms using their opensource technology stack. It was remarkable to learn that these young brights of Uganda were being exposed to these new technologies for the very first time.

We therefore believe, our local understanding of the industry and aspirations of Uganda, will offer a solid platform for Estonian businesses to expand into Uganda, while more importantly help Uganda engage Estonia more productively with more predictable outcomes.

Having said that, we are already helping numerous Estonian IT businesses, identify capable indigenous Ugandan IT companies to form compelling collaborations. We will be announcing some MoUs soon.

5. What are the first things you want to focus on as the pioneer consul of Estonia in Uganda?

Nair: I would like to scale and drive active collaboration between the Government of Uganda and our local businesses with their counterparts in Estonia.
Bring the much needed exposure to the incredible possibilities that digitalisation brings to a nation.
Bring Estonia’s world leading digital capabilities to Uganda and help in the socio-economic transformation of the country, the businesses and youth.

The post Interview: 5 Questions for Estonia’s New Consul in Kampala, HE Girisch Nair appeared first on Watchdog Uganda.


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