French president Macron pledges economic growth with Kenya

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NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday pledged greater partnerships with Kenya in economic development and efforts to improve the environment and to battle regional extremist violence.

At the start of his two-day visit to Kenya, Macron met with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and launched a new car model assembled at a Peugeot factory in this East African country.

“What we want to do is to be part of your new growth agenda,” he said.

Following discussions with Kenyatta, Macron unveiled a new Peugeot 3008 SUV which will be locally assembled by the French car manufacturer. Kenyatta drove his guest for a short test drive of the vehicle.

“This is a good day for Kenya and for our development,” Kenyatta said adding that he expects Macron’s visit to have a positive impact on tourism and business.

Macron and Kenyatta signed new agreements to development public and private partnerships. Macron was accompanied by a group of French business leaders.

Macron’s visit is the first by a French leader since Kenya became independent from Britain in 1963. He was received at State House, President Uhuru Kenyatta’s official residence, and given a guard of honor with a 21-gun salute.

Macron came to Kenya after visiting Djibouti and Ethiopia on a trip that is focusing on investment and security in East Africa, a region of increasing strategic importance.

In Ethiopia, a country mourning the Ethiopian Airlines plane crash on Sunday that killed 157 people, Macron expressed condolences and made a gesture of confidence in the state-owned company.

Ethiopia’s new ambassador to France posted on social media a photo of Macron with the Ethiopian Airlines CEO, Tewolde Gebremariam, saying the French leader had “reaffirmed his support for the launch of Ethiopian flights to Marseille, which will be the second destination in France.”

In Kenya the French president also will attend a U.N. environmental meeting and One Planet Summit in Nairobi.

Macron said top among the issues they had discussed was security and counter-terrorism.

“We want to improve the cooperation in the region from the security and defense point of view,” he said.

Kenya is among the African Union countries contributing troops to reinforce Somalia’s weak army against an insurgency the Islamic extremist rebels of al-Shabab, which is affilitated to by al-Qaida. Kenya has suffered the most of al-Shabab attacks outside Somalia.

Macron said France will work closely with Kenya on green energy. He said Kenya delivered “tremendous results in the fight against climate change.”

Macron’s office said that Kenya is the only African nation to reach the goal of making renewable energy 75 percent of its energy mix.