French firms reap from Macron tour


President Uhuru Kenyatta and France President Emmanuel Macron during the High-Level Segment of the One Planet Summit (OPS)and the Fourth Session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-IV) at the United Nations Office (UNON) Complex, Nairobi. PHOTO | SAMUEL MIRING'U

Three French companies signed business deals worth Sh226 billion (two billion euros) during President Emmanuel Macron’s two-day visit to Kenya, making them the biggest beneficiaries of France’s renewed bid to deepen economic ties with Nairobi.

A consortium led by French infrastructural firm Vinci secured a 30-year concession contract worth Sh180 billion to build and operate the Nairobi-Nakuru highway.

The Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA) had picked the consortium, the Rift Valley Connect, comprising Vinci Highways SAS, Meridian Infrastructure Africa Fund and Vinci Concessions SAS as the preferred bidder for the project, sparking a protest from a rival consortium that also includes a French firm.

In signing the deal, President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration overlooked the dispute surrounding the contract, in which the rival consortium comprising of the African Infrastructure Investment Fund 3 Partnership (AIIM), Egis, Mota-Engil as well as Orascom has alleged the contract was issued fraudulently.

Another consortium led by French aviation giant Airbus won a Sh22.6 billion defence deal for coastal and maritime surveillance.

This will see the firm use big data and predictive analysis to boost surveillance along the Indian Ocean.

Kenya is seeking to tap the benefits of its maritime economy to exploit all its ocean resources including minerals and offshore oil and gas.

Paris stock exchange-listed French company, Voltalia, an international player in the renewable energy sector, also inked a Sh7.9 billion deal to build a solar power plant in Kenya.

Solar project

The African Development Bank Group (AfDB) had earlier approved a $18.17 million loan (about Sh1.86 billion) for the 50-megawatt Kopere solar project by Voltalia located in Muhoroni Constituency, Kisumu County.

Paris is also set to ink a lucrative deal to build a commuter rail service connecting Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi to the city centre through a government-to-government tender.

France is Kenya’s third-largest bilateral lender after China and Japan, with loans from Paris standing at $612.22 million (Sh61.37 billion) last December.

Trade between the two countries is tilted in favour of France, as per data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics.

Kenya imported goods worth Sh23.93 billion from France against Sh7.93 billion in exports, indicating a trade deficit of Sh16 billion.

Orders for Kenyan goods from France have been growing steadily since 2012, rising to Sh7.93 billion in 2018.

Imports, on the other hand, slowed down to Sh23.93 billion last year from Sh26.84 billion in 2017.

Some of major French firms already operating in Kenya include logistics giant Bollore, petroleum marketer Total, audit firm Mazars, Schneider Electric, investment fund Amethis and food flavours producer Afribon.