A high-powered delegation of French businessmen including top executives of Airbus and Alcatel-Lucent on Wednesday met President Uhuru Kenyatta in a sign of warming business ties between the two countries.
The delegation of more than 50 executives was led by the French Minister of State for Foreign Trade Matthias Fekl in the State House visit.
“The French government is impressed by your pragmatic and precise engagement to improve the Kenyan economy. Our companies are at your service to improve the Kenyan economy,” said Mr Fekl.
The French Embassy, through its investments promotion unit — Business France — organised the visit.
President Kenyatta termed the visit as a “vote of confidence” in Kenya’s economy. “We in Kenya know that our development goals will be achieved faster if we facilitate the private sector to be active partners,” he said.
The visiting firms are involved in education, construction and civil engineering, electronics, aeronautics, transport, oil industry, agriculture, health, engineering and ICT.
The French embassy records indicate that there are 70 French firms in Kenya, up from 33 in 2012, underlining rising interest in East Africa’s largest economy.
“These firms have indicated a strong interest in Kenya,” said Christophe Cottet, the financial counselor at the Regional Economic Department of the French Embassy in Nairobi.
The companies said they were eyeing partnership deals with local firms to bolster their presence in the east African market.
Alphalatre, which produces equipment for plaster and gypsum, said it had approached Centum for a deal.
“We have opened talks with Centum towards setting up a production unit locally,” Alphalatre commercial executive Guillaume Prode told the Business Daily.
Centum CEO James Mworia said the proposed partnership fits within the firm’s diversification strategy.
“Yes we are in discussion as part of our real estate product portfolio,” said Mr Mworia but did not offer details.
HEC Paris, ranked second best business school in Europe, said it was keen to partner with local universities, citing a growing thirst for executive courses in the region.
“We are looking for partnerships with universities in Kenya, given that this economy presents a huge opportunity for our programmes,” said HEC global initiatives director Armelle Dufour.
Official data shows that Kenya’s exports to France have grown 12 per cent to Sh5.6 billion between 2010 and 2014 while its imports have expanded 20.4 per cent to Sh22.4 billion in the four-year period.
This makes France the third largest source market for Kenya’s imports in Western Europe after the UK and Germany.