Finnish businesses ready and willing to be part of Kenya’s success story

MikaLintilä (1)

Finland’s Minister of Economic Affairs Mika Lintila. PHOTO | POOL

Finland is known for its world-class technological innovations, effective education system and probably, for many, being ranked the happiest country in the world year after year.

This has not always been the case. More than 100 years ago, Finland gained its independence from the Russian empire.

We were one of the poorest countries in Europe, went through a bloody civil war right after independence and were drawn into two wars with the Soviet Union during the Second World War.

What made Finland’s development possible then?

There are at least two different factors that can account for the Finnish success story. One is the strong focus on the education system.

Finland – much like Kenya – has no major natural resources to rely on, so we realised that people are our best resource.

Providing equal education to all girls and boys, no matter how remote they lived, was one of the key goals since the early years of Finnish independence.

The technological advances, Nokia phones taking over the world, for example, would not have been possible without a highly educated population.

Today, digitalisation is in our DNA and we have developed advanced digital services across the government and society.

When it comes to education, Finland is already present in Kenya on many levels. The University of Helsinki and the University of Nairobi have formed a strategic partnership, one of five in the world for Helsinki.

Finland is supporting the development of technical and vocational education and training and many other institutions of higher learning are cooperating with their Kenyan counterparts.

Another key factor has been our belief in free trade and open markets. Today Finland is a keen member of the European Union, the largest free trade area in the world.

Finland has benefitted tremendously from the free flow of people, goods and capital through the European continent.

Most importantly, Finland has benefited from the free flow of ideas that European integration has brought to us.

Finland has set out a goal of doubling its trade, not just exports, with Africa by the year 2030. Kenya is one of the key partners to make this goal a reality.

We strongly believe that integration not only within the continents but also between different regions is a key to prosperity.

Formalising trade relations in the form of European Partnership Agreements between regions or individual countries is one of the ways to do this.

Another prime example of economic cooperation is the European Business Forum taking place in Nairobi on February 21-22.

Today’s social challenges are complex – such as the green and digital transformation – but they are also great opportunities for us.

That is why we need international business collaboration and co-creation. We hope that through trade and dialogue, we can be part of the Kenyan success story.

The writer is the Finnish Minister of Economic Affairs.

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