There have been pronounced French activities in Kenya, from making new cars to bringing newer and finer wine.
Even before France’s President Emmanuel Macron jetted into the country for a two-day official visit that spawned a spectacular French-Kenyan bromance, President Uhuru Kenyatta had already quietly given his hand, and that of Kenya, to the European country.
The two signed a number of deals, including the building of a commuter railway that will connect Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and Nairobi’s Central Business District.
A visibly excited Uhuru could not help firing a Tweet in the language of romance. Unfortunately, a section of the legion of Kenyans on Twitter (KoT) was not to be amused.
They shot back at the Head of State with a tirade of satires and memes. But if the objective was to loosen Uhuru’s bond with Paris, the President was certainly unshaken.
“I am delighted to host my friend in his historic visit to Kenya. Kenya and France enjoy a cordial relationship that has helped spur growth in different areas for the benefit of our people,” Uhuru said in a joint press conference with Macron.
He added: “Our talks reflected on the strong relations between Kenya and France, as we pursue to bolster the existing ties between our two nations.”
A year into his presidency in 2014, the Kenyatta family sold a 40 per cent stake in Brookside, a dairy producer, to the French food group, Danone.
Three years later, Brookside relinquished its entire stake in a Tanzanian subsidiary to Danone.
Days before President Macron jetted into the country, French carrier Air France announced that it would, from April, have an additional two flights on its Nairobi-Paris route.
In 2017, Uhuru midwifed the return of French car-maker Peugeot to Kenya (German car-maker Volkswagen also came in at around the same time), joining a constellation of French brands, which, besides Air France and Danone, also include Total, Bollore, L’Oreal East Africa, Fairmont and Siemens.
Others French brands are Alcatel, Alstom Grid, Sanofi, Veritas, Ceva Animal Health, Thales, Michelin, Sagem and Egis group.
The first ever visit to Kenya by a French President has touched off another round of deal signings, with reports estimating their total value at between Sh200 billion and Sh300 billion.
At a ceremony at State House in Nairobi, a consortium led by Vinci secured a 30-year concession worth €1.6 billion (Sh181 billion) to operate a highway linking the Kenyan capital and Mau Summit in western Kenya.
Renewables’ firm Voltalia sealed a €70 million (Sh7.9 billion) contract for a solar power plant while an Airbus-led consortium won a €200 million (Sh22.6 billion) deal for coastal and maritime surveillance. Total is finalising terms on a second solar plant.
“France has supported Kenya for several years in development projects... but we are not sufficiently economically and industrially,” Macron said on Wednesday night in a news conference with Uhuru.
There seems to be increased inflow of cash - in form of debts and grants - from France compared to other EU countries.
In the current financial year, France has already committed more than Sh18 billion to finance various projects ranging from water to energy projects.
They include Sh13.6 billion for the Mwache multi-purpose dam.
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