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Macron, Uhuru set to sign Sh300bn rail, defence deals - VIDEO

French President Emmanuel Macron is set to sign deals worth more than Sh300 billion ($3 billion) with his Kenyan counterpart Uhuru Kenyatta during his two-day official visit that kicked off Wednesday.

Mr Macron is on the first visit by a French president since Kenya’s independence in 1963.

The multibillion-shilling deals will among others include the funding of a commuter railway link between Nairobi’s central business district and the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) by 2021.

It will also finance the upgrading of Kenya’s military equipment.

State House said French firms operating under the auspices of the French Business Confederation (MEDEF) have identified 12 “priority projects” for investment within the government’s ‘Big Four Agenda.’

“The projects span industry, roads, energy, food security, health and technology,” said State House. “Some of the areas of interest between Kenya and France include economic and technical co-operation, regional peace and security, climate change, reform of the UN, migration and sustainable development, among others.”

21-gun salute

Mr Macron was honoured with a 21-gun salute when he arrived at State House and was later conducted on a tour of the Nairobi Central Railway Station off Haile Selassie Avenue.

In their joint press address at State House, both Mr Kenyatta and Mr Macron stressed the need for “stronger” bilateral relations between the two countries.

France, which has the second-largest railway network in Europe with a total of 29,901 kilometres of railway, is expected to ink a mega deal to develop a dedicated commuter rail service to JKIA to ease traffic congestion to and within the city.

Mr Macron also commissioned a new line of French-made vehicles to be assembled in Kenya.

French automaker Peugeot S.A, once a household name, is eyeing a comeback through local assembly of its units following a long struggle to retain its market share amid cheap imports of second-hand cars and competition from local assemblers.

Besides trade, Mr Macron who is accompanied by dozens of top business leaders will ink an intelligence sharing deal on terror networks and de-radicalisation with Kenya.

Mr Kenyatta made a State visit to France in 2016.

The European nation like Kenya has battled a wave of terrorist bombings in recent years.

China influence

Mr Macron’s trip to Kenya is part of a four-nation African tour seen by experts as an attempt by France to counter the mounting influence of new players on the continent, including China.

A former banker, Mr Macron has called for opening of a new chapter in French-Africa relations, maintaining that France-Afrique, a term referring to shadowy business and political ties with former colonies, has come to an end.

“He (Mr Macron) is determined to push French interests to as many countries in Africa as possible. He wants to join China in being felt in Africa, which seems like an easy geopolitical target,” said Macharia Munene, a professor of history and international relations at the United States International University in an earlier interview.

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