From retail to oil: How France is charming its way into Kenya

From retail to oil: How France is charming its way into Kenya

On March 28, 2018, a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner from the Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport touched down at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA).

It was Air France’s first passenger flight to Nairobi after an 18-year hiatus.

The symbolism of the maiden flight for the French, who have been shopping for better deals outside Francophone countries , was monumental.

France’s grip on Francophone economies in West Africa has been slackening and it has looked to fall back on Anglophone Africa.

This has been aggravated by, among other factors, the uneventful end of the CFA franc, a currency that was used by France’s former colonies in Africa and guaranteed by the French treasury.

As the French have gradually shed the vestiges of la Françafrique – a murky arrangement that bound France’s business and political interests with those of the people who ran its former colonies – they have set their sights on more lucrative English-speaking countries.

And Kenya has been top on the list of Anglophone countries French investors are keen on making inroads in. And they, have descended on Kenya in droves with their goodies.

They have brought their fragrances in the form of Mon Guerlain perfume; their fine wining and dining with Nectar Imperial champagne by Moët & Chandon; their fashion and beauty through Clinique, Lancôme, Sephora and MAC Cosmetics; as well as their cars Peugeot and Renault.

Hard liquor

But when it comes to phones, France’s Sagem and Alcatel have faded from the local market as Kenyans fall for the charms of Chinese phones like Huawei, Tecno, Oppo, Xiaomi, Lenovo and Infinix.

However, the French are focusing their sights elsewhere.Since 2010, when Moët Hennessy set up a trade representative office in Nairobi, the value of imported hard liquor, including brands such as Hennessy cognac, had as of 2018 increased around six times from $535,000 (Sh57.7 million) to $3.03 million (Sh327 million), according to data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS).While China is the factory of the world, it has not edged out France in manufacturing Hennessy cognac (as well as pesticides, which remain France’s top export to Kenya).Hennessy, a brandy, can only be grown and fermented in France, just like the bubbly wine known as champagne.The value of wine imported from France, official data shows, more than doubled to $1.87 million (Sh200 million) in 2018 from $864,000 (Sh93.3 million) in 2010 as consumers developed a taste for the drink.In Kenya, the French […]

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