PARIS, France, Apr 5 – President Uhuru Kenyatta has challenged French companies to reclaim their once-pivotal trading position in Kenya.
While noting the significant volume of French investment capital in Kenya’s national development agenda, President Kenyatta said there was potential for trade between Kenya and France to increase in scope.
“There is a significant volume of trade between the two countries. However, this level of trade is far below the potential existing in both countries. Therefore there is still great scope to enhance the volumes of trade and levels of investment,” President Kenyatta said.
He added: “This calls for the strengthening of trade and economic relations and for private sector players from both countries to forge strong partnerships, joint ventures and mergers and expand the scope and variety of goods and services traded for the mutual benefit of the two countries.”
The Head of State – who spoke Tuesday in Paris during a Kenya-France business forum – urged French companies to work with their Kenyan counterparts to bridge the balance of trade that is skewed in favour of France.
Currently, French companies are the sixth largest foreign investors in Kenya. More than 70 French companies have commercial presence in Kenya, a 75percent increase from about 33 companies in 2013.
French investments are spread across many sectors, which include transport and logistics (Bollore Logistics, AGS, Frasers); cement (Lafarge); energy (TOTAL) automobile (Michelin tyres, Peugeot and Renault); electrical and electronics (Schneider Electric), pharmaceuticals and other services.
President Kenyatta welcomed the Paris business Forum, saying it is a demonstration of the commitment and desire for the private sectors from both countries to do business with each other.
He assured the French business council led by the President of business group MEDEF International, Momar Nguer, that the Kenyan delegation was ready to engage their French counterparts in order to enhance economic and trade cooperation.
Saying the government has prioritised infrastructure development and investment to spur growth and job creation in all sectors of the economy, the President said there were opportunities for French companies to participate in the building and construction, energy, oil and gas.
He said other areas open for French investment include manufacturing, value addition in agriculture, livestock, water and irrigation, ICT, mining and tourism.
Responding to questions raised by members of the French business council, President Kenyatta said his Government has taken measures to improve the ease of doing business.
“These include streamlining of the process of registering new businesses, use of mobile telephone platform (USSD) for unique business name search and reservation, and decentralizing these services to Citizens’ One Stop Shop Service Centres (Huduma Service Centres),” President Kenyatta said.
Besides maintaining a stable macro-economic framework, President Kenyatta said a business friendly regulatory environment that is supportive to the business operations has been established.
He pointed out that Kenya is now the business hub in the East and central Africa regions.
He emphasised that his government has continued to promote, facilitate and work closely with the private sector as the engine of growth.
“In this regard, Public, Private Partnership (PPP) frameworks that will safe-guard investments and reduce risks across all sectors are being developed,” the President said.
The meeting attended by representative of over 40 French companies resolved to have regular sector-specific meetings where collaboration between the Kenyan and French private sectors can be enhanced.
On his part, Nguer noted the progress Kenya has made in promoting the ease of doing business and assured of more French investment in Kenya.
Other speakers included Kenyan business magnate Chris Kirubi and the Chairman of the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry Kiprono Kittony.