French President Emmanuel Macron embarked on a four-day charm offensive across the Horn of Africa last week, stopping off in Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Kenya. The trip is largely seen as a bid to cement new ties in a region where China's influence has been growing fast.
In the first visit by a French president to Kenya since its independence in 1963, Macron concluded his trip with a bang, announcing an estimated 3 billion euros ($3.4 billion) worth of deals with the East African powerhouse.
While specifics remain obscure, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta confirmed in a statement Thursday that an agreement with a "French consortium" had been reached on a series of major works to boost Kenya's transport network, including the construction of a commuter rail line linking the Kenyan capital with its central railway station.
Accompanied by some of France's corporate giants — including Danone, EDF, GE Alstom and Total Group — Macron's message was quite clear.
"The intent is indeed to open a new partnership in economy," Macron said in a joint press conference with Kenyatta on Wednesday. "Now what we want to do, especially with our delegation of companies, is to be part of your new growth agenda…This is how France could be a long term, credible economic partner," he added.
Both sides expressed keen intent to turn this visit into a long-term affair with cooperation spanning beyond business and including a series of environmental and educational alignments of their interests.
However, some of the local reaction was less enthusiastic. Twitter was flooded with adverse reactions to Macron's visit. One Tweet read: "People like Macron are the real stumbling blocks to the development in Africa".