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Digitally savvy Estonia: A haven for startups

Farhana Chowdhury
Filed on March 22, 2020

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, with Jaan Reinhold

Jaan Reinhold, Ambassador of Estonia to the UAE and Kuwait, Embassy of the Republic of Estonia in Abu Dhabi

The newly established Estonian embassy is mapping out bilateral cooperation in various sectors. The country holds investment potential with strong networks and ease of business for UAE-based entrepreneurs. Excerpts from an interview with Jaan Reinhold, the first Ambassador of Estonia to the UAE:

Tell us a bit about yourself and appointment as the first Ambassador of Estonia to the UAE.

I have been a career diplomat for almost 20 years now with experience from my previous missions to Lithuania, China and Central Asian countries, and as Head of Business Diplomacy in HQ. Since last September, it has been my honour to serve as the first-ever residing Ambassador of my country to the UAE. The Estonian Embassy in Abu Dhabi is our first diplomatic representation in GCC countries, making this posting especially exciting.

From your perspective, tell us about the potential bilateral relations between the UAE and Estonia, and what you look forward to achieving during your tenure.

Since the establishment of diplomatic relations between our two countries, the development of our mutually beneficial partnership has been positive and rewarding in all means.

Both Estonia and the UAE are considered to be small states by population, which makes us like-minded and therefore closer to each other. Estonia has witnessed the active role of the UAE in terms of building peace and stability in the Gulf region as well as developing the country to be the centre of political and business initiatives.

Estonia is among the most networked nations in the world, being a member of EU, NATO, OECD and others. Aimed to take up more responsibility in the global arena, the country has been elected as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council for 2020-2021.

This clearly shows us that there are many topics and initiatives on the agenda for bilateral discussions. I would also like to highlight our common efforts to assist third countries in their development. We are planning to kick off UAE-Estonian projects in Africa on digitalisation and help governments build better public services.

Tell us about the role the Embassy of Estonia aims to play in boosting economic, investment and cultural ties between the two countries.

As the Embassy just started its operation in the UAE, my colleagues and I are currently mapping out the opportunities for our business. Our nations share many similar qualities, we are pro-business and enterprise with modern and consumer driven economies. With our shared agenda in embracing and advancing innovation, I see a huge opportunity for Estonian companies to bring their world-class innovations and services to the UAE market.

Estonia ranks high in terms of open Internet access. Please tell us more about its potential for investors.

Estonia is well-known for being one of the leader-countries for digital and knowledge-based businesses. Small by territory and population, we have never enjoyed abundant natural resources or a huge internal market. At the same time, according to the World Economic Forum, we are the most entrepreneurial country in Europe with a competitive and transparent economy where, with the help of modern e-solutions, setting up and running your business is quick and easy. About 98 per cent of companies are established online and it only takes a couple of minutes.

Afterwards, entrepreneurs can manage the company digitally, such as declaring taxes, signing documents, using e-banking. Even if you are too busy to visit Estonia, you may apply for e-residency, a government-issued digital identity, which allows you to run your business remotely and still be an integrated part of the EU market.

We also have a great start-up culture. Estonia is among the top countries in the world ranked by start-ups per capita, therefore becoming a place where new solutions and ideas are born.

In terms of tourism, what can visitors from the UAE look forward to and experience?

At 45,000 square kilometres, Estonia is just a little bigger than Denmark or The Netherlands. Culturally, it is located at the crossroads of Northern, Western and Eastern Europe. Every corner of the country is different. Half of the country is covered by forest and is therefore very green. The coastline is 3,800 km long with over 2,000 islands, and our capital Tallinn has a beautiful medieval Old Town, which is listed in UNESCO's World Heritage List.

There is much to discover for Emirati people and that is why we are currently working hard to establish a direct flight connection between Estonia and the UAE, in order to make the travel easier. Not to mention, mild Estonian summers are a perfect retreat from much higher temperatures in the Gulf.

To date, how many Estonian expatriates and organisations are present in the UAE?

We have a dynamic relationship with the UAE, which is currently a home to more than 300 Estonians. For years, it has also been one of the most beloved tourism destinations for my compatriots. More than 12,000 Estonians visit the UAE annually. I believe that the Dubai Expo 2020 will give a huge impetus, not only in terms of tourism, but also help our entrepreneurs to become more familiar with business climate in the UAE, such as, how to boost the businesses here and find Emirati partners for trade and investments in Estonia.

Why trade with Estonia?

Innovative - Estonia is one of the most advanced digital societies in the world, where 99% of state services are online. It's the first country to introduce a cross-border digital identity: e-residency.

Flexible - Estonia is a small country with an agile mindset. We are used to finding solutions and making decisions. Our workforce is highly qualified.

Fast - Estonia is known for low bureaucracy and result-driven mindset. As a global leader in financial activities, it is the perfect test bed to try out new ideas.

Low-risk and transparent - Estonia is a politically stable country with low government debt and highly developed cyber-security. Doing business in Estonia is predictable with low levels of corruption and paperless processes.

Visit for more information.

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