Mauritius: Stepping Stone To Africa

Mauritius is definitely working its location.

Situated in the southern Indian Ocean about 1,200 miles off the southeast coast of Africa, Mauritius wants to be the go-to country for entrepreneurs seeking business opportunities on the African continent.

With a savvy workforce of bilingual professionals, strong economic and governance fundamentals and a network of business agreements with African countries, Mauritius is already being used by major Indian and Chinese companies to expand into the continent. “Mauritius provides a safe business climate for raising capital,” says Ken Poonoosamy, managing director of the government’s Board of Investment. “It can provide solutions for some of the problems faced by Africa . . . one of them being boosting the share of FDI [foreign direct investment] being directed toward the continent.”

To prove its point, the board—the country’s national investment promotion agency —has shifted into high gear this year with an expanded “Africa Strategy.” The strategy builds on the Africa Centre of Excellence for Business created by the government in October 2012 to help companies nail down investment opportunities in sub-Saharan Africa. This year’s Africa Strategy aims to expand the support businesses receive to help them negotiate the treacherous waters that can accompany investing in the continent. The board is touting its benefits during a half dozen high-level conferences across Africa in the coming year.

Settled by the Dutch in 1638 before becoming a colony of France in 1715, Mauritius was taken over by the British during the Napoleonic Wars and was granted independence in 1968. Today the country offers investors a multiethnic, multicultural workforce fluent in English and French and a concrete business foundation provided by 19 investment promotion and protection agreements with sub-Saharan countries, along with 18 double-taxation avoidance agreements.

And Mauritius continues to work its location.

This exotic tropical country—which includes the islands of Mauritius, Rodrigues and Agalega and the archipelago of Saint Brandon—is surrounded by coral reefs and is known for its luscious beaches. Government officials are intent on forging an ocean economy that will move beyond tourism into seafood processing, ship registry, marine biotechnology and even mining the seabed for hydrocarbons and minerals.

It is also tapping into the island’s natural beauty to develop a film industry. A film rebate scheme developed in 2012 is luring international film production houses intent on finding the perfect location.