NAIROBI, (The Southern African Times) – Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta met with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron at the latter’s residence in Paris, the Élysée Palace, on Wednesday to sign three bilateral agreements. The Kenyan President has been joined on this visit by the country’s Cabinet Secretaries for foreign affairs, the treasury, infrastructure, and trade—Raychelle Omamo, Ukur Yatani, James Macharia, and Betty Maina, respectively.
Among the agreements is a $1.5 billion public private partnership (PPP) that launches the development of the Nairobi-Nakuru-Mau Summit highway. This partnership brings together the Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA) and French company Meridiam International, who entered into the agreement with Vinci Highways SAS and Vinci Concessions SA. It represents one of the largest PPP projects in the region and is expected to facilitate greater cargo traffic into East and Central Africa.
The second agreement was for the construction of a $152 million commuter railway line between Nairobi’s central business district (CBD) and the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA). Thirdly, they inked a $129 million deal to build the 400Kv Menengai-Rongai electricity transmission line.
Kenyatta also spoke at the France Inno Generation 2020 business forum on Thursday, and will speak at the Kenya-France business forum on Friday as part of his five-day trip to France. The Kenyan leader will also meet with officials from the Public Investment Bank of France and Medef, the French employers’ association.
These engagements were undertaken in order to attract investment into Kenya by French companies as well as connect Kenyan businesspeople and investors with their French counterparts. At present, over 100 French companies are active in Kenya.
During his joint address with Macron, Kenyatta said Africa’s value lies not in its “diamonds, oil, [or] gas” but its “young men and women and their capacity to participate with you to build a greater and better world for all of us”.
Macron, for his part, said that it was vital that Kenya met with French entrepreneurs and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to discover “how French companies can bring something to your country, provide our solutions, our innovations, our entrepreneurship and be part of your success”.
On the topic of migration from Africa to France and Europe at large, he acknowledged that the African continent has “huge problems with regard to migration that make people have this feeling or this understanding that all that Africa can contribute is migrants”.
However, he called on the audience to question why these “these young men and women risk their lives to cross thousands of miles of land, risk their lives to cross the Mediterranean”, remarking that it is “in search of opportunity”.
The two countries also share significant people-to-people exchanges. Ahead of Kenyatta’s visit, Kenya’s Ambassador to France, Professor Judi Wakhungu, said, “The largest component of our relationship is actually education. We have had Kenyan students in France for many years, we have also had French researchers in Kenya for very many years.”
Kenya is currently in the midst of trade negotiations with the United States (US) and the United Kingdom (UK). These latest deals with France represent another vital step towards broadening its economic interactions.