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Boost for Kenya as French firms keen to start local operations

By Dominic Omondi | January 5th 2017

A number of French companies have shown interest to start operations in Kenya. This offers a big boost to the country’s job-creation efforts.

The companies which cut across different sectors, are keen to capitalise on Kenya’s position as the regional hub. Although most of the companies did not specify when they would like to enter the Kenyan market, Afrostream- a subscription video on demand which offers access to Afro-American and African movies and TV series, said it would be making its entry this year.

Speaking to a group of Kenyan journalists who had paid the start-up company a visit in their office in Paris, Afrostream co-founder and CEO Tonjé Bakang said that preparations for firm to enter Kenya were at advanced stages. The company is already in talks with BuniTV, the producer of comic show XYZ.

It will not be a smooth-sail for Afrostream, though. The start-up firm will have to compete against American multinational entertainment company Netflix, which has some headstart. Showmax, another online video streaming company, also joined the fray.

However, Bakang said they would ride on affordable pricing and relevant content to beat the fierce competition. Another company, Blue Solutions, a subsidiary of Bollore Logistics which deals in electric storage solutions, would like to join other French energy firms such as Siemens in Kenya. Blue Solutions operates in Benin, Togo and Guinea. “Before end of next year (2017), we will have a very huge installation in East Africa,” said Blue Solutions Managing Director Gilles Alix.

Mr Alix said that they were in talks with a number of local companies for a possible partnership. He singled out M-KOPA as one of the companies they are looking to work with.

The third firm is Urbasolar, a solar company that already has operations in Kenya. It recently moved to deepen its activities in the country by launching another solar plant in Ruiru. It also said that it would set up a 10 megawatts plant in partnership with Kenyatta University in one of its skills-transfer programmes, according to Urbasolar’s business development manager Sebastien Poncelet. Through the project, Kenyatta University will consume the power and sell the surplus to Kenya Power.

The company is also looking at moving into Uganda, after Kenya. They are already in 15 countries in Africa, and they insist that as soon as the opportunities arise they will set camp in Kenya. They were, however, non-commital as to when they would do.

French companies have before been content with a strong presence in Francophone countries, cozy with their colonial interactions. But with an outburst of opportunities in East Africa, most of them have started venturing eastwards.

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