France, Kenya in infrastructure deals worth $3.3bn

Thursday March 14 2019

Emmanuel Macron and Uhuru Kenyatta

French President Emmanuel Macron (right) and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta take a test drive during the presentation of the new Peugeot 3008 Allure SUV at State House in Nairobi on March 13, 2019. PHOTO | LUDOVIC MARIN | AFP 

More by this Author

On the first-ever visit to Kenya by a French head of state, presidents Emmanuel Macron and Uhuru Kenyatta announced a series of public-private infrastructure deals Wednesday, totalling 3 billion euros ($3.34 billion).

Key among the contracts between French companies and Kenya will be the building of a railway line from the traffic-congested capital Nairobi to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, a trip of about 20 kilometres that can take up to two hours by car.

After Djibouti and Ethiopia, Kenya was the third stop on the French president's East African charm offensive, during which he offered "respectful" partnerships in the face of growing regional indebtedness to China – fast expanding its foothold in the continent.

Macron said France wants trade and commercial relationships that are "much more fair and profitable for the Kenyan people," adding the best kind of investment was one that respected the receiving country's sovereignty and was "sustainable."

Not good, added the French president, were major projects undertaken in other countries "without creating jobs" and financed with long-term loans that plunge countries into irreversible debt.



The railway, President Kenyatta said, "will help completely transform the lives of millions of urban workers". It should be operational by 2021.

France and Kenya are also negotiating a contract for 1.6 billion euros ($1.8bn) to improve a highway from Nairobi northwest to Mau, a busy stretch of road for passengers and freight that is among the country's deadliest.

Looking to strengthen economic, military, and cultural ties in East Africa, Macron on Tuesday offered "respectful partnership" to Djibouti, heavily-indebted to China for infrastructure project loans.

"I would not want international investments to weaken the sovereignty of our partners," Macron told Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh.

In Ethiopia, he announced a defence agreement in which France will loan 85 million euros ($96m) to Ethiopia to support the establishment of a navy for the landlocked country.

On Thursday, the French leader will attend the One Planet Summit on reversing climate change. The summit is being held in Nairobi.