Corruption still a problem but we are fighting it, Uhuru tells French investors

President Uhuru Kenyatta addresses French investors in Paris on October 2, 2020/ PSCU

President Uhuru Kenyatta has acknowledged that rampant corruption remains a a major setback in Kenya’s push to become the investment destination of choice in Africa.

Inviting French investors to choose Kenya as their preferred investment destination in Africa, President Kenyatta admitted graft remains a huge challenge but said his administration is taking measures to defeat the vice.

“I am not going to lie to you. Yes, corruption is still a problem but I want to guarantee you that we are fighting that problem. We are putting in place mechanisms that are going to ultimately ensure that it is much harder for people to engage in corrupt practices,” the President said on Friday.

The President added that his government will do everything it can to facilitate French investors to make it easy for them to do business in Kenya and in the region.

He spoke at a meeting of French and Kenyan investors.

There have been previous cases of investors pulling back over claims of extortion and kickbacks demands from wheeler dealers and government officials.

At the same time, the President acknowledged the growing number of French businesses setting up base in Nairobi, saying the number had grown from less than 30 to over 100 in under 10 years.

“I am very happy in the manner in which French companies have begun to aggressively get more and more involved in Kenya. There was a time, not so long ago, less than 10 years ago, when we had very few French companies wanting to or willing to be based in Nairobi or to do business in Kenya. Today, we have well over 100 and more coming,” President Kenyatta said.

Africa’s biggest asset is its youth, not natural resources, Uhuru says

“I want to encourage and to tell you that we are open for business, we want to work together with you. I think there’s a great future both for France and Kenya from this partnership,” he added.

President Kenyatta spoke Friday in Paris during a France-Kenya business forum hosted by MEDEF, the largest French business consortium in the world.

At the luncheon attended by top executives of leading French companies, the President said Kenya is keen to continue attracting win-win business partnerships to enable the country attain its development aspirations.

“We are reflecting and we are recognizing that if we are to achieve our social and economic agenda as a people, as a country, we cannot do it without capital, we cannot do it by just depending on internally generated capital. We need to be able to attract foreign capital,” he said.

Uhuru said his administration is rolling out a cocktail of policy and market reforms that have seen Kenya’s ranking in the World Bank ease of doing business index improve significantly in recent years.

He said Kenya’s economy is open for French investments in sectors such as technology, infrastructure and energy, and cited the recent signing of a 1.3 billion Euro agreement for the construction of a highway in Kenya by the private sector as an example of the opportunities available to French companies.

President Kenyatta encouraged French and Kenyan investors to seize opportunities presented by challenges on the African continent such as the huge youthful population and the global Covid-19 health crisis to provide solutions.

“Let us not necessarily look at crises just from the problem point of view. A crisis is the basis not just for problems it is also a basis for opportunities. This is the time to look for new opportunities and Africa is a great emerging opportunity,” the Head of State said.

French President Emmanuel Macron was represented at the business forum by his Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Franck Riester.

Riester rallied French companies to invest more in Kenya saying France is keen on strengthening its economic ties with Kenya.

“Kenya, off course, holds as a very special place on the continent (Africa) and in our (France) strategy because Kenya is a land of promise and opportunity,” the French Minister said.

He said no country can grow alone and urged French businesses to pursue long term win-win partnerships and investment opportunities with their Kenyan counterparts.

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