Kenya an excellent example of a dynamic Africa - Minister

Africa – Kenya/Somalia/Burundi/South Sudan – Interview given by M. Jean-Marc Ayrault, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, to the newspaper Le Monde Afrique

Paris, 2 August 2016

France/East Africa

Q. – Trade is increasing between France and East Africa. Is Paris distancing itself from what could be considered its “private domain”?

THE MINISTER – There’s no private domain. For us, Africa is a whole. There isn’t just West Africa, the Sahel and French-speaking Africa; there’s East Africa too, which is booming economically. Admittedly we’ve taken less of an interest in it traditionally; just think: this is the first visit to Kenya by a French foreign minister in 15 years!

This part of Africa has huge potential, which must be supported. I’ll also soon be going to Ethiopia. More generally, I’m doing my utmost to make my European colleagues more aware of Africa’s importance and potential. At the last NATO summit, at the beginning of July, I was very pleased to hear Chancellor Angela Merkel calling for our strategic approach vis-à-vis the continent to be better coordinated.

Kenya-France relations/Dadaab refugee camp

Q. – In an article published in the Kenyan daily newspaper The Star, you welcome the fact that investment and trade between Kenya and France grew by a quarter between 2014 and 2015. With East Africa, is it more a business relationship and less a political one?

THE MINISTER – No, it’s both. During this visit, we’ll be talking about the common fight against terrorism and the various regional conflicts.

In our view, Kenya is an excellent example of this dynamic Africa experiencing an economic boom. It’s a country which is leading the way on the continent, with a great capacity for innovation and investment, a notable share of renewable energies in the energy mix and a democracy which is being strengthened, and it has taken a genuine technological leap forward, through, for example, the rapid growth of mobile banking.

Q. – Yet Kenya continues to make it clear that it wishes to close the Dadaab refugee camp – the largest in the world – despite the protests of humanitarian players… What is France’s position on this?

THE MINISTER – We respect Kenya’s decision, but would like all this to happen in close coordination with the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees and with due regard for international treaties. Otherwise there’s a risk of chaos and violence.


Q. – In Somalia, several countries have announced the withdrawal of their troops from the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). NGOs recently denounced the deaths of 14 Somalian villagers who were killed by Ethiopian troops. Should the European Union and France revise their support for AMISOM?

THE MINISTER – We support the African Union, and the Shebabs can’t be allowed to destabilize the country. But we remain vigilant: protecting civilians is crucial in peacekeeping operations. On 10 June, I chaired a meeting of the [United Nations] Security Council on the subject. France has experience to contribute because of its commitment in the peacekeeping field, particularly in Africa. We mustn’t turn a blind eye to possible acts of violence.


Q. – Last week the Security Council adopted a resolution, proposed by France, allowing 228 police officers to be dispatched to Burundi. Is that really enough?

THE MINISTER – The resolution was adopted after France did a huge amount of work talking to all the members of the Security Council and the Burundian authorities. Two hundred and twenty-eight police officers certainly isn’t a lot. It’s an observer force, not a military intervention. But already a sign and a message are being sent to provide guarantees and thus ease tensions. It shows that the international community isn’t turning a blind eye to the situation in Burundi.

South Sudan

Q. – In South Sudan, the UN force, UNMISS, appears completely overtaken by events. Does this worry you?

THE MINISTER – It’s a very complicated issue. The agreements signed between the opposition and those in power weren’t respected. Consequently, the country is today on the brink of the abyss.

At any rate, the international community mustn’t be indifferent to any conflict in Africa. I attach great importance to the crucial role the African Union and neighbours of countries in conflict play, such as Kenya, in resolving these tensions. Africans must solve their own problems, with our support.

Q. – Will François Hollande be going to East Africa as well?

THE MINISTER – The President has already been to Ethiopia. When I talked to him about my trip to Kenya and Tanzania, I saw the great interest he takes in the region. I’m sure he’ll seize every opportunity to return./.

Africa – Article by M. Jean-Marc Ayrault, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, published in the Kenyan daily newspaper The Star¹

Nairobi, 1 August 2016

France-Kenya ties growing

It has been 15 years since a French Foreign Minister last visited Nairobi. Today, a few months after President Uhuru Kenyatta’s visit to France, I am in Nairobi to emphasize France’s will to strengthen its partnership with Kenya, a major country and a leader in the areas of education and technological innovation, including in the banking sector.

Kenya typifies Africa: a young, dynamic, inventive country with belief in its future. France fully welcomes this ambition, both for Kenya and the continent of Africa, with which it has such close ties.

France is constantly in dialogue with Kenya on essential issues for both our countries. Whether the issue is our people’s universal aspiration for prosperity, their need, which is just as essential, for security and compliance with fundamental rights, their cultures or the vital promotion of sustainable development, our two countries hold close and candid dialogue.

At a time when barbarity is blindly striking our countries, France stands alongside Kenya, just as Kenya stands alongside France. Together, we are standing up to terrorism. Together, we will stop this scourge from being inflicted on our societies.

France supports the efforts of Africa, and first and foremost the African Union, to put an end to the conflicts eating away at the continent. Kenya’s vital role in this action must be applauded. In Somalia, where Kenyan soldiers are bravely fighting terrorists as part of the African Union Force (AMISOM), which is supported by France and the European Union. In South Sudan, where Kenya and other regional countries are working to make local political leaders once again see sense. In Burundi, where the East African Community, of which Kenya is a prominent member, is seeking to restore dialogue. In each of these countries (Somalia, South Sudan and Burundi), Africa is spearheading efforts to achieve peace, efforts of which it and all of us must be proud.

France wants to increase its bilateral relations with Kenya across the board. We have so much in common. President Keynatta’s official visit to Paris last April gave new impetus to our partnership. Today, it was my turn to come to Nairobi to reiterate this momentum.

Our trade and investments grew by a quarter between 2014 and 2015. There are increasing numbers of French companies in Kenya, which are creating employment. Kenya, with its population of 50 million and its vibrant middle class, has all the tools for us to go even further together. At the same time, we are happy to welcome further Kenyan investments to France, as was recently the case in Nantes, a city of which I was mayor for many years.

This bilateral partnership can also be seen in the area of climate. Kenya and the African continent as a whole played a key role in concluding the Paris Agreement last December. Now, our challenge is to implement it.

Kenya is moving in the right direction. Partly due to subsidized loans from the French Development Agency, it is Africa’s leading country for renewable energies, which comprise 75% of its energy mix. This is an example for the entire world, which must encourage us to continue working together in an essential area for economic and social development.

All of the above are compelling reasons to continue working hand in hand./.

¹ The article was published in English.

Published on 19/09/2017

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