In the hushed echelons of global influence, Kenyan President William Ruto didn’t just win an election in August 2022- he orchestrated a symphony of change that captivated French investors in Africa (CIAN).
Ruto’s rise wasn’t a mere political shuffle according to the investors, it was a gust of change that reshuffled economic and diplomatic cards, tilting the scales in favor of Washington while leaving Beijing to navigate the winds of uncertainty.
Within the expansive 125-page Africa Economic Outlook of 2023 booklet, meticulously dissected by region and countries, French Council of investors in Africa argue, President William Ruto’s triumph unfolded on a razor’s edge, securing victory with a mere 50.49 percent against the resilient 77-year-old Raila Odinga, dubbed by the investors as “the Raymond Poulidor of Kenyan Politics” due to his fifth consecutive defeat.
Ruto’s electoral success became a beacon of hope, transcending community divides and defying the ominous specter of violence that typically shadows such transitions.
Hailing from modest origins, Ruto, a self-made man, spent a decade as Deputy President alongside Uhuru Kenyatta.
In a daring move, he framed his presidential campaign as a crusade for the oppressed, pitting himself against the entrenched political dynasties personified by Kenyatta and Odinga.
Despite the duo’s alliance to thwart Ruto’s rise, their legacy failed to dim his ambitions.
The Kenyan economic outlook, meticulously scrutinized by French investors, spotlighted the formidable challenges inherited by President Ruto.
Amid expectations of a 5 percent growth in 2023, the nation grapples with a soaring public debt nearing 70 percent of GDP, a precarious situation denounced by economic experts.
The looming debt crisis, with servicing projected to devour over 55 percent of current budget revenues by 2024, propelled Ruto to seek respite from Beijing.
Keeping his promise of transparency, Ruto disclosed contracts signed with China, and renegotiating the terms of the $5 billion loan for the Nairobi-Mombasa standard gauge railway, Kenya’s costliest infrastructure endeavor.
Ruto’s firm stance against China, coupled with his pledge to deport illegal Chinese nationals, hinted at a recalibration of allegiances, favoring closer ties with the United States.
The shift from the Kenyatta era is tangible, reflected in the resumption of diplomatic relations with Mogadishu, signaling a departure from the diplomatic stance of the past.
At the 2023 US-Africa Summit in Washington, President Joe Biden extended a warm welcome to Ruto, underscoring the potential for a renewed alliance.
In the eyes of the French Council of Investors, Kenya, with its strategic position as a logistics and financial hub, remains an attractive destination for foreign investment.
Bolstered by innovative champions like Safaricom, CIAN, the oldest French business association dedicated to companies invested in the continent says the country’s trajectory under Ruto appears poised to captivate and sustain the interest of global economic players.
Etienne Giros, president of the French Council of Investors in Africa, a body whose members account for four-fifths of French business activity on the continent, shared with this writer during his visit to the Paris-based entity that they’re open to businesses of all sizes and sectors, with 170 members who carry out 80 per cent of French business in Africa.
CIAN has an estimated 60 billion euros investment in Africa and a turnover of 50 billion euros every year.
The ex-financial executive officer for Africa at Bollore Group stated that Nairobi stands as an ideal investment destination, citing it as the most business-oriented capital in Anglophone Africa.
Bollore previously owned by the family of French billionaire businessman Vincent Bollore, is one of Africa’s largest transport and logistics firms and operates in Kenya.
In discussing other African markets, CIAN noted that while the Kenyan market is smaller compared to Nigeria, it boasts greater organizational efficiency, making it more accessible for French businesses to invest in Kenya than Nigeria.
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