Just don’t mention yellow vests to France President Emmanuel Macron.
The 41 year old former banker joins the list of high profile global leaders to visit Kenya in recent years.
It’s no secret that Macron is facing a harsher political climate back home than when he first strode into power. His head may not be resting easy whenever he retires to the Elysee Palace, faced with lingering questions that have accumulated as his reign on France has gone on.
France was swarmed by the gilets jaunes (yellow vests) protests earlier this year over the socio-economic status of its citizens. The growing pressure has seen his popularity dwindle, when at a time he seemed to be the darling of Europe.
A quest to reassert that status could be on the cards as his visit will see Macron among other things co-host the fourth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-4) at the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) headquarters in Gigiri, Nairobi. The high level meeting dubbed ‘One Planet Summit’ is a French initiative, and though a global meeting, it has secured the first ever French head of state to visit Kenya.
This could point to a need for global recognition, as the France president seeks to reassert his slightly charred image on the international stage.
If Macron does manage to make a global imprint, he could set himself up to join the high ranks of international superpower leaders.
At the same time, Macron will hold talks with President Uhuru Kenyatta and seek to sign agreements of both a bilateral and multilateral nature which may put Kenya and France on firmer trade relations. France has not always been the warmest in foreign relations with Kenya, with the likes of USA, China and former colonial master United Kindgom carrying greater ties.
This could also be good news for a number of French firms in the country who are apparently not enduring the best of times in as far as economic atmosphere is concerned.
Companies such as Total Kenya and Bollore Group have been in the news for market related or corporate governance challenges.
Just this week however, the ballpoint pen maker BIC launched a facility in Nairobi that will act as its East African headquarters, serving up to 10 markets in the region. Macron’s visit may set the stage for more French firms to settle and make Kenya their point of regional control.