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At the high-level meeting on digital issues within the framework of the Assembly of the African Union in Addis Ababa

Thank you for inviting me. I begun this speech in French, because multilingualism is very important for Estonians, since Estonia is a small country with only 1,3 million people.

I am telling you a story of a country, which 30 years ago was poor and living under the level of extreme poverty. This country had just regained its independence and we were told by all to follow their example. To do what they have been doing before. “Don’t worry, do just like we do and then you will catch up with us.” We, the young government of our country, realized that it cannot be true.  If you are doing exactly the same things that others have been doing before you, then you are never going to catch up. We realized that we must do things differently.

Here in this continent I see a smart start-up continent. I am relying on our own experience. No one considered us smart and start-up. We proved them wrong. I know you are smart and start-up. 30 years from now everybody will look with admiration at this start-up continent, which has developed quickly thanks to embracing the new technologies. I am sure this will come true.

Back to my own country. What did we have 30 years ago? We had nothing, no tax offices, no government offices; no bank offices .We had nothing. While our people wanted services like everyone everywhere and while we are a country, which is not densely populated.

Banks were already going online and offering digital services. First internet banking services in Europe came online in 1996-1997. Yes, they were tiny compared to what we have today, but they were there. We talked to our banks and said, what if … Well, we need to collect taxes and nobody wants to see the taxman.

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