President Uhuru Kenyatta has encouraged French investors to choose Kenya as their preferred investment destination in Africa and assured them of the Kenyan Government's support.
"As a Government, we will do everything that we can to facilitate you, to make it easy for you to do business in Kenya and in the region," President Kenyatta told a meeting of French and Kenyan investors.
At the same time, the President acknowledged the growing number of French businesses setting up base in Nairobi saying the number had grown from less than 30 to over 100 in under ten years.
"I am very happy in the manner in which French companies have began to aggressively get more and more involved in Kenya. There was a time, not so long ago, less than ten years ago, when we had very few French companies wanting to or willing to be based in Nairobi or to do business in Kenya. Today, we have well over 100 and more coming," President Kenyatta said.
"I want to encourage and to tell you that we are open for business, we want to work together with you. I think there's a great future both for France and Kenya from this partnership," he added.
President Kenyatta spoke Friday in Paris during a France-Kenya business forum hosted by MEDEF, the largest French business consortium in the world.
At the luncheon attended by top executives of leading French companies, the President said Kenya is keen to continue attracting win-win business partnerships to enable the country attain its development aspirations.
"We are reflecting and we are recognizing that if we are to achieve our social and economic agenda as a people, as a country, we cannot do it without capital, we cannot do it by just depending on internally generated capital. We need to be able to attract foreign capital," the President said.
The Head of State said his administration is rolling out a cocktail of policy and market reforms that have seen Kenya's ranking in the World Bank ease of doing business index improve significantly in recent years.
He said Kenya's economy is open for French investments in sectors such as technology, infrastructure and energy, and cited the recent signing of a 1.3 billion Euro agreement for the construction of a highway in Kenya by the private sector as an example of the opportunities available to French companies.
President Kenyatta encouraged French and Kenyan investors to seize opportunities presented by challenges on the African continent such as the huge youthful population and the global Covid-19 health crisis to provide solutions.
"Let us not necessarily look at crises just from the problem point of view. A crises is the basis not just for problems it is also a basis for opportunities. This is the time to look for new opportunities and Africa is a great emerging opportunity," the Head of State said.
President Kenyatta acknowledged that rampant corruption was a major setback in Kenya's push to become the investment destination of choice in Africa and assured the French business people that his administration was taking measures to defeat the vice.
"I am not going to lie to you. Yes, corruption is still a problem but I want to guarantee you that we are fighting that problem. We are putting in place mechanisms that are going to ultimately ensure that it is much harder for people to engage in corrupt practices," the President said.
Riester rallied French companies to invest more in Kenya saying France is keen on strengthening its economic ties with Kenya.
"Kenya, off course, holds as a very special place on the continent (Africa) and in our (France) strategy because Kenya is a land of promise and opportunity," the French Minister said.
He said no country can grow alone and urged French businesses to pursue long term win-win partnerships and investment opportunities with their Kenyan counterparts.
Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) Chairman Nick Nessbit and Momar Nguer, the President of MEDEF's working group on Africa also spoke at the meeting attended by top African and French business executives.
After the business forum, President Kenyatta was taken on a guided tour of Quartier Rive Gauche urban renewal and Station F innovation hub projects in downtown Paris.
Quartier Rive Gauche is an expansive urban renewal project that has seen the city of Paris working with the private sector rehabilitate an old industrial district sitting on over 130 hactares of land into a modern mixed use business district.
The hub is a huge complex that hosts thousands of innovators from across the world including Kenya. The facility operates round the clock, providing innovators with enabled working spaces to incubate their ideas into profitable start-up businesses.
At Station F, President Kenyatta met and interacted with Kenyan innovators George Mwendwa and Morgan Kablin who have been at the facility for a year incubating a digital payment solution for the Kenyan market.