President Uhuru Kenyatta kicked off his official visit to France on the evening of Wednesday, September 30, at Elysee Palace where he was received by his French host Emmanuel Macron. Elysee Palace is the French president’s official residence.
Upon his arrival at the Palace shortly after 9 pm local time, Uhuru inspected a guard of honour mounted by the French military at the start of an elaborate state reception ceremony. The two heads of state then witnessed the signing of three bilateral agreements before leading their delegations at a state banquet hosted in honour of the visiting Kenyan leader.
Later, the two leaders retreated for private talks. Among the agreements reached is a public-private partnership (PPP) for the construction of the Nairobi-Nakuru-Mau Summit highway signed between KeNHA and Vinci Concessions. The highway is one of the largest PPP projects in Eastern Africa. Others were agreements for the development of the Nairobi Central Business District (CBD) to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) commuter railway line and the 400KV Menengai-Rongai electricity transmission line.
Uhuru arrived in Paris on the evening of Tuesday, September 29. The plane carrying the president and his entourage touched down at Orly Airport, located 13 kilometres south of Paris, at 8pm local time.
Kenya’s ambassador to France Professor Judi Wakhungu said the Uhuru’s visit is a continuation of the historical bilateral ties that have existed between Kenya and France for over half a century. The envoy said the president’s visit will particularly help to strengthen people-to-people and commercial ties between the two nations noting that over 100 French companies operate in Kenya.
“The largest component of our relationship is actually education. We have had Kenyan students in France for many years, we have also had French researchers in Kenya for very many years,” said Wakhungu. “When it comes to investment and the private sector, we have over 100 French companies operating in Kenya,” she added.
Wakhungu said Uhuru’s visit follows President Macron’s historic visit to Nairobi in March 2019, the first such visit by a serving French president. The Kenyan ambassador also spoke about the benefits of some of the infrastructure projects that Kenya and France are jointly pursuing.
She said the Nairobi CBD to JKIA commuter rail link whose construction agreement was signed Wednesday at Elysee Palace will help enhance the movement of travellers between the city centre and Kenya’s foremost international airport. “Our aspiration is to see that this commuter railway line eases traffic in Nairobi but also eases the movement of people within Nairobi.
We hope that along the route and the surrounding areas, other businesses will be able to grow,” stated Wakhungu. On the PPP agreement for the construction of the Nairobi-Nakuru-Mau Summit six-lane dual carriageway, the ambassador said the mega project will help decongest the existing highway and enhance the efficiency of cargo transport to Western Kenya and onwards into the export markets of East and Central Africa.
“We hope that extending this highway which is going to be about 200km, again, it will ease traffic on that particular very, very important route. I need not to remind Kenyans that this is a major highway that connects Mombasa, Nairobi and all the way to Uganda, Rwanda and other parts of Central Africa,” Wakhungu continued.
Today, Thursday, October 1, Uhuru will deliver an address at the BPI France Inno Generation 2020 business forum, the European country’s largest international innovation and entrepreneurship extravaganza which brings together hundreds of French companies to explore investment opportunities abroad. Uhuru will speak about investment opportunities in Africa at the forum during which he is expected to woo French companies to invest in Kenya.
At the forum that will be held at the iconic Accor Arena, Uhuru will be hosted by President Macron on whose invitation the Kenya Head of State is gracing this year’s BPI France Inno Generation as its guest of honour. On Friday, October 2, he will preside over the Kenya-France business forum organised by the French Business Confederation (Movement Des Entreprises De France (MEDEF).
The meeting will bring together investors from Kenya and France to discuss investment opportunities in Kenya as well as explore avenues for increasing Kenyan exports into the lucrative French market. Uhuru is accompanied by Cabinet Secretaries Raychelle Omamo (Foreign Affairs), Ukur Yatani (Treasury), James Macharia (Infrastructure) and Betty Maina (Trade).
As earlier reported by TUKO.co.ke, Deputy President William Ruto will be steering the country until the return of the president. Section of allies of the president, for instance, Jubilee vice-chair David Murathe and Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu have claimed the DP’s seat fell vacant long time ago. Ruto, who has been accused of insubordination and snubbing events attended by Uhuru, has maintained that the president has not complained about his performance and that he has executed with distinction tasks given to him.