During a visit by President Emmanuel Macron, French firms have signed contracts in Kenya worth around £1.7 billion.
Macron’s visit to Nairobi, which follows stopovers in Ethiopia and Djibouti is the first by a French president since Kenya won independence from Britain in 1963 and aims to deepen France’s economic ties with East Africa.
A French presidential source is reported to have said: “In Kenya there is an economic opportunity and it’s within the president’s strategy in France to look at not just Francophone Africa, but Anglophone Africa too.”
However, France faces competition from other European allies. These include Britain which is seeking to revive its trade relationship with its former colony as it prepares to leave the European Union.
At a ceremony attended by Kenyan leader Uhuru Kenyatta, a consortium led by Vinci secured a 30-year concession worth 1.6 billion euros to operate a highway linking the Kenyan capital and Mau Summit in western Kenya.
Renewables firm Voltalia sealed a 70 million euro contract for a solar power plant, an Airbus-led consortium won a 200 million euro deal for coastal and maritime surveillance, while Total is finalising terms on a second solar plant.
Despite Kenya being the most advanced economy in east Africa, French businesses account for just a 1.4 percent market share.
French exports to Kenya in 2017 amounted to between $170 million and $225.80 million, while China, Kenya’s number one trading partner, exported goods worth $3.8 billion.
In a news conference on Wednesday night President Kenyatta said he hoped France would become a more important trading partner and took Macron for a drive around the grounds of State House in a Kenyan-assembled Peugeot car.