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France signs 2bn euro worth of infrastructure deals in Kenya

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French President Emmanuel Macron shakes hands with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta during an event at Nairobi Central Railway Station in Nairobi on March 13, 2019, on the first day of a state visit to Kenya. Yasuyoshi CHIBA / AFP

France has signed contracts with Kenya worth more than 2 billion euros, including a 1.6 billion euro deal to operate a highway between Nairobi and Mau Summit. 


The deals were announced by Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta and Emmanuel Macron on the first-ever visit to Kenya by a French head of state.

Key contracts between French companies and Kenya include 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.

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

A consortium led by France’s largest construction firm Vinci secured a 30-year concession to improve and operate a much needed highway between Nairobi northwest to Mau, a busy stretch of road for passengers and freight that is among the country's deadliest.

Another consortium led by Airbus won a 200 million euro contract for coastal and maritime surveillance, and renewables firm Voltalia sealed a 70 million euro contract for two solar power plants.

"Sustainable" investment

After Djibouti and Ethiopia, Kenya is the third stop on the French president's trip to East Africa where France is seeking to strengthen economic, military, and cultural ties.

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."

He was not in favour of major projects undertaken in other countries "without creating jobs" and financed with long-term loans that plunge countries into irreversible debt.

On Tuesday, Macron offered "respectful partnership" to Djibouti, heavily-indebted to China for infrastructure project loans. China is rapidly expanding its foothold on the continent.

The French leader will attend the One Planet Summit on reversing climate change in the capital Nairobi on Thursday.
 

(with AFP)