Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta met his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Wednesday to witness the signing of three bilateral agreements in a multi-day trip that is expected to strengthen rapidly expanding economic ties between the two countries.
Travelling with a delegation of ministers, Kenyatta will attend several high-profile events over the next two days including one of France’s premier business conferences as he seeks to increase French investment in Kenya.
Over 100 French companies are operating in the East African nation in sectors like hospitality, energy, luxury goods and retail.
The latest deals, signed at the French president’s official residence, were in infrastructure.
French infrastructure giant Vinci Concessions made its first foray into Africa with a $1.3bn public private partnership (PPP) to build and operate a 175 km highway from Nairobi to Mau, one of the largest PPP projects in the region.
Other agreements included the development of the Nairobi Central Business District (CBD) and a commuter railway line to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
Along with foreign direct investment, Kenyatta is hoping to boost Kenya’s exports of mainly fruit and vegetables to Europe’s second-largest market.
It is his first overseas trip since Covid-19, providing further evidence that France is playing an increasingly important role in Kenya while expanding its footprint beyond the North and West African markets where it has been active since the colonial era.
“France could use this visit to strengthen their position in East Africa, as Kenya is showing a resilient growth over years and offers a stable stronghold to run businesses in East Africa,” says Clément Leclerc, sales manager for Kenya at Snetor East Africa, a French-company distributing chemicals across the region.
“I’m convinced that this meeting will be fruitful for both countries and will bring up new partnerships.”
Since 2012, the number of French companies in Kenya has increased dramatically from 30 to 110, according to the French Chamber of Commerce Kenya.
Major French groups to have recently established a presence in the country include Accor, Peugeot, Décathlon, Carrefour, Société Générale, Air France and France 24.
In 2018, French exports to Kenya increased by 11.7% compared to 2016, reaching €171.2m ($194.4m).
In March 2019, Macron made the first official trip by a French head of state to Kenya since independence.
France is now the third-largest investor in East Africa’s most developed market.