This article was written by Ranjeeta Awora
Discovered by the Portuguese in 1505, Mauritius was subsequently held by the Dutch, French, and British before independence was attained in 1968. A stable democracy with regular free elections and a positive human rights record, the country has attracted considerable foreign investment and has earned one of Africa’s highest per capita incomes. Recent poor weather and declining sugar prices have slowed economic growth, leading to some protests over standards of living in the Creole community.
Mauritius has been variously described to the world as the ‘Pearl of the Indian Ocean’ and the ‘African Tiger’ due to its uniqueness as an island economy.
Mauritius has a land surface area of 2,040 sq km (788 sq miles). The main languages spoken are English (official), French, Creole (the local dialect) and Indian languages.
The beautiful island of Mauritius, with its tropical climate and the genuine hospitality of its more than 1.2 million people, has attracted discerning visitors for generations. As one of the strongest economies in Africa, with a bilingual workforce (French and English, plus Hindi or Cantonese) and a long tradition of private entrepreneurship, Mauritius is an attractive location for investors.
Mauritius is one of the oldest democracies in Africa. It is a multicultural society known for its socio-political stability and for the peaceful co-existence of its many religious and ethnic groups. It has a population of around 1.3 million inhabitants who are mainly of Asian, African and European origins.
After a century and a half as a British colony, Mauritius obtained its independence from the United Kingdom in 1968 and acceded to Republic status in 1992. The government system is based on a Westminster model, with clear separation of powers between the Executive, Parliament and the Judiciary. The upholding of basic civil liberties and private property is enshrined in the Constitution which is the supreme law of the country.
Since independence in 1968, Mauritius has developed from a low-income, agriculturally based economy to a middle-income diversified economy with growing industrial, financial, and tourist sectors. For most of the period, annual growth has been in the order of 5% to 6%. This remarkable achievement has been reflected in more equitable income distribution, increased life expectancy, lowered infant mortality, and a much-improved infrastructure. The economy rests on sugar, tourism, textiles and apparel, and financial services, and is expanding into fish processing, information and communications technology, and hospitality and property development. Sugarcane is grown on about 90% of the cultivated land area and accounts for 15% of export earnings.
Mauritius has attracted more than 32,000 offshore entities, many aimed at commerce in India, South Africa, and China. Investment in the banking sector alone has reached over $1 billion. Mauritius, with its strong textile sector, has been well poised to take advantage of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). Mauritius’ sound economic policies and prudent banking practices helped to mitigate negative effects from the global financial crisis in 2008-09. GDP grew in the 3-4% per year range in 2010-12, and the country continues to expand its trade and investment outreach around the globe.
In 2005, the government created a ten-year Economic Reform Programme; in 2007, it passed the Business Facilitation Act that laid out steps for development of an environment conducive to the creation of SMEs.
Government agencies, including the Small Enterprises and Handicrafts Development Agency (SEHDA), the Board of Investment (BOI), and Enterprise Mauritius (EM). Despite the high value placed on innovation in East Asia, relatively few people actually pursue entrepreneurial activities.
Mauritius is a political and financially stable mature democracy which has actively sought and welcomed foreign investors and business for many decades. The banking, communications, financial and professional infrastructure is adept at meeting the demands of international business and tax practitioners.
The 2013 outlook is positive, but may be tempered by downside risks if external demand remains timid. Growth is projected at 3.8% and 4.2% for 2013 and 2014, respectively, driven by continued expansion in the financial services, ICT and seafood sectors. The Cost Price Index (CPI) inflation steadily declined from 6.5% in 2011 to 4.1% in 2012 as the base effects were absorbed and global prices trended downward. As risks to growth outweighed price stability challenges the Key Repo Rate (KRR) was cut by 50 basis points to 4.9% in March 2012.
Its population is educated, hard working and governed democratically with sound economic policies. Mauritius has a free market economy with positive economic growth, almost full employment and a favourable balance of payments position.
The principal sectors are manufacturing, tourism, textile and sugar cane processing. Mauritius is emerging as a major business and financial sector in the region and in August 1995 became a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC). The private sector is predominant and the Mauritius Stock Exchange is one of the fastest growing in Africa. The local currency is the Mauritian rupee ®
Mauritius has a free market economy with positive economic growth, almost full employment and a favourable balance of payments position. The country has a well developed financial system and that the banking system is highly profitable and sound.
The government has launched the Economic Agenda for the New Millennium (NEA). Its three key objectives are to: (i) increase Mauritius’ competitiveness; (ii) bring about deeper social development and social cohesion; and (iii) preserve and protect Mauritius’ fragile environment.
On 8 September, 2000, Mauritius together with 188 other Member States of the United Nations, adopted the United Nations Millennium Declaration, which embodies 8 specific goals, and 18 targets to improve humanity in the new century.
The island country of Mauritius is on track to meet all of the Millennium Development Goals. However the achievement is another example of how the goals fall short in gauging public welfare. Some things such as health, unemployment and the environment still need improvement on the island.
Mauritius has already achieved MDG 2, universal access to primary education in the early 1990s. It has met MDG 4, reducing of the under-five child mortality rate by two thirds, and MDG 5 of improving maternal health – maternal deaths holding steady between 2007 and 2009.
In Short: The unique elements that make Mauritius so attractive and competitive for Business expansion are as follows: a political, economic and social stability, a pro-business environment, ranked n° 1 in Africa for doing business, dynamic private sector very receptive to foreign investment, and open for joint venture collaborations, high level of protection to investors through a wide network, of double taxation treaties (DTT), ease of doing business for incorporation or registration of a company, young, dynamic, competitive and bilingual (English/French) workforce.
The famous Mark Twain well stated that: “Mauritius was made first and then Heaven and that Heaven was copied after Mauritius.”