The world, especially in Africa, continues to fight Covid-19 with strict measures such as compulsory wearing of face masks in public, and social distancing.
But Denmark seems to have emerged from that restrictive episode.
Last week, the European country lifted most of the measures initially imposed to contain the virus, and officials say it had to do with lots of public cooperation.
Danish Ambassador to Kenya Ole Thonke, told Nation.Africa what it took to convince the public to take vaccines, and why his country is donating doses to poorer countries.
Denmark has had high vaccination rates. How was it able to ensure this high uptake?
First of all, the degree of trust between the government of Denmark and the people is very high. Also, the level of trust between Danes and their scientists and science in general is very high.
So when a vaccine is provided to the public, they know it has been completely investigated, is safe and reliable and works, and that people don’t have issues taking it. This has significantly contributed to the high uptake of the vaccine.
Denmark recently donated over 350,000 doses of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine to Kenya but there was skepticism among the people. What would you tell them?
There is vaccine skepticism not only here in Kenya but also globally. I have even heard some of these conspiracy theories - that the West is imposing vaccine uptake upon the rest of the world, thus people should not take it.
Right now, close to 75 percent of the Danish population is fully vaccinated, which is almost 4.2 million people. If you look at the high risk population, the vaccination rate is above 90.
As of September 1, all Covid-19 restrictions in Denmark were lifted, despite the fact that we still have Covid-19, and a 1.37 percent infection rate.
Covid-19 is still there but the number of people in hospital, especially in intensive care units, is very low. Right now in the whole of Denmark only 147 people are admitted, with 13 of them in ICU as a result of Covid-19, leading to the conclusion that the vaccines are effective and working.
Also read: Sunday Memba: Let’s cure vaccine hesitancy
What made you choose Kenya for the donation?
We had quite a high number of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines that were deemed to be sufficient to cover our needs, so we started to donate to other countries the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson brands that we had bought at the beginning of the vaccination campaign.
It just so happened that Kenya was the first country to receive a bilateral donation from Denmark, a testimony to our strong partnerships.
But also, the Kenyan government was very quick to react in the fight against the pandemic, in that it was one of the first African countries to effectively rolling out vaccination.
So when we were donating, we wanted to be sure that the vaccines being donated would be used in time before the expiry date, instead of lying somewhere in a warehouse.
Besides health donations, Denmark’s investment in Kenya remains low. Are there plans to increase this?
Recently, a commercial counselor from Denmark was posted to our trade section here at the embassy. This is a testament of how ambitious we are in trying to promote more trade with Kenya.
We believe there’s a huge potential here in Kenya and want to do more in the sectors where Danish investors and business are most active.
For instance, there is the agricultural and renewable energy sector, like the famous wind power project in Lake Turkana.
We also want to invest more in the health sector, particularly in dealing with non-communicable diseases, which are on the rise.
Denmark has made remarkable strides for green energy. How are you using that to support more renewable energy projects in Kenya?
In Denmark, in a given year, more than 50 percent of electricity is produced by green power which is integrated into the national grid.
This technology is sought after all over the world and we hope to replicate this in Kenya, especially due to the energy challenges the country is currently facing.
Based on your experience with food production, what areas can Kenyan farmers focus on so as to follow this path?
Denmark's success in terms of farming is penned on a highly effective and industrialised agricultural system. This encompasses production, processing, storage and safety.
Perhaps Kenya needs to focus on more effective irrigation, water harvesting, and the whole food processing system. Also, storage technologies will be important, as well as how to transform the agricultural goods into food for the population.
Most importantly, the issue of climate change has to be looked at because agriculture depends on it.
Ahead of the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 26) in Glasgow, Scotland, countries are debating on how to sustainably provide clean and safe water. In what ways can your country share technology as far as water is concerned?
The first thing that comes to mind is water treatment. In Denmark we have top notch technology in water treatment plants.
In Kenya, only a small proportion of water is treated so we believe there will be a huge need for investments in clean water treatment moving forward.
Kenya will need to move into water treatment in the future, and we hope to apply some of our latest water treatment technologies to do so, using very resource efficient methods.
This is because one of the biggest challenges when it comes to water treatment in Kenya is the high cost of power.
Some of the water treatment plants in Denmark are sustainable in terms of produce more or less the same amount of energy they consume, so basically they run by themselves.
We hope to try this in Kenya. Recently, we reached an agreement with the Kenyan government to install a brand new water treatment facility worth $150 million in Athi River.