Nairobi — The government of Kenya through the Ministry of Finance has signed two loan agreements with the French government amounting to Sh903.3 million.
Sh752milion will be used for the set up of a digital radio network for the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) while Sh150.5 million will go to coffee farmers of the Murang'a Co-operative Union Limited.
Assistant Minister for Finance Oburu Odinga said KWS will install a digital radio network at the Southern Conservation area (covering Nairobi, Ol Donyo Sabuk and Amboseli National Parks), the Tsavo Conservation area and Central Rift area (Hells Gate, Lake Nakuru and Longonot parks), to improve security operations.
"The project will upgrade the analogue network to a more robust and enhanced digital platform. This is expected to reduce maintenance costs and increase efficiency in communication and ultimately this will ensure timely and accurate responses to cases of human wildlife conflicts, poaching and visitor security," said Odinga.
"Tourism industry comprising eco-tourism, cultural tourism and wildlife accounts for about 21 percent of total foreign exchange earnings and 12 percent of Growth Domestic Product," added the minister.
For the coffee farmers, Odinga explained that the money will be used in value addition of the coffee as exportation of raw coffee has remained a key challenge in growing the coffee sector in the country.
"The grant for the support of the improvement of value addition for coffee producers in Murang'a will go a long way in addressing the challenges our agriculture sector faces especially with regard to value addition of produce such as coffee which makes Kenya's agricultural sector exports less competitive in the global markets," the minister said.
On her part, the French Minister for Trade Nicole Bricq said the two loans will be paid over 20 years with a grace period of five years and at an interest rate of less than one percent.
"I love Kenyan coffee so much and I use it whenever I find it. I believe, all our relations with the Kenyan government on various projects will help grow our bilateral relationship," she said.
"Tourism contributes a lot to Kenya's economy and therefore it is important to ensure that all sectors related to tourism - wildlife being one of them - are protected," added Bricq.
She however said one of the conditions of the agreement is that 70 percent of the bids under these loans will be given to the French government.
In this year's budget 2012/2013, out of Sh74billion committed by Kenya's bilateral partners, the government of France has committed Sh12 billion which represents 16.2 percent of the total commitment.
To date the French government has on cumulative basis contributed a total Sh128.15 billion (Euro 1.16billion).