Ambassador of Mauritius
Mauritius is not only seen as the future global investment hub, it is seen as the springboard into Africa. Joël Rault, Ambassador of Mauritius, talks about the country's African Strategy and why he believes investors should come to Mauritius.
"We do not have just one economic direction, we have a series of avenues that we take to reach our goals. For example, our Africa Strategy is one of the most promising. Historically, we have strong links with the African continent; we are members of the African Union, SADC, COMESA, the Commonwealth and more. Secondly, one third of the population of Mauritius comes from Africa. So, though we are not actually on the continent, we have quite natural links with African countries while our geographic location provides a beneficial “outside view”."
FDI Spotlight: What are the current strategies and aims in Mauritius for future growth and collaboration on the international stage?
Our philosophy in Mauritius is to be very humble and modest. We are not a large country, only 2000 km2. We are proud of being Mauritian, of course, and proud of being an independent island state in the middle of the Indian Ocean. But we keep in mind that economic development does not just come from within the island, it also comes from the rest of the world. We cannot live in isolation. Our goal is to work with everyone.
We do not have just one economic direction, we have a series of avenues that we take to reach our goals. For example, our Africa Strategy is one of the most promising. Historically, we have strong links with the African continent; we are members of the African Union, SADC, COMESA, the Commonwealth and more. Secondly, one third of the population of Mauritius comes from Africa. So, though we are not actually on the continent, we have quite natural links with African countries while our geographic location provides a beneficial “outside view”.
The African Strategy is based on the structural pillars of community: free movement of people, goods and funds. When you have these you start having a community. This is facilitated by our membership in SADC, COMESA, etc., and we are trying more and more to open this network with other countries.
We have no choice but to take into account that we are a small country. We have around 1 million people, whereas a large African country like Nigeria has almost 200 million. However, we have strong institutions like our judiciary system. Today, with the help of the IMF and the World Bank, we will partner with other countries who have what we don’t have, but don’t have what we have. We can create free trade zones with countries offering greater resources, while we bring the stability required to encourage business and investment.
FDI Spotlight: What are your thoughts on the uniqueness of Mauritius’ country brand?
In 2009 we had the Mauritius re-branding initiative. We realised that Mauritius is a good, strong brand but sometimes there were some contradictions in the way people thought of the country. People thought of Mauritius as being a place for a beach holiday, but not somewhere to work. This posed a problem, as we cannot just rely on tourism. We appointed a renowned UK firm with a proven record of country branding to provide a solution. They took the pulse of Mauritius, so to speak, and proposed that the backbone of our country, the DNA, is the concept of “nurturing”. It is exactly right; in Mauritius we nurture people. You can come for a business, a beach holiday, or a treatment in the hospital system, but no matter what we will take care of you, we will nurture you. The Mauritian people are truly welcoming and visitors can sense that the Mauritian smile is natural and genuine.
FDI Spotlight: With many luxury properties being built on the island, how do you see the property development sector taking off in the future?
We value our “five star” reputation, and we have no intention of losing that. The sector is booming. Everyone wants to be in a place where they can work, eat and play and it is summer all year round. The Minister of Finance and Economic Development has made some strong decisions in his budget to open the property development sector even more to foreigners. I feel the future is strong for this sector because the scarcity of land on the island keeps property prices high and protects us from the formation of a bubble.
FDI Spotlight: What is your message of confidence to the international community, why invest in Mauritius?
The primary reason for investing in Mauritius is political stability and the rule of law. No one is excited by the prospect of investing in a country without the rule of law. Investing in Mauritius gives you assurance of being treated fairly and equally with your partners and competitors.
Secondly, you invest in Mauritius because you want to invest in a country that is ambitious. Thirdly, the people. We do not have many natural resources, but we have something very, very powerful: the Mauritian population. Mauritian people are willing to work hard and they learn very quickly. There is a capacity to be interested and open to other cultures, which is evident in the beach vendors who speak as many languages as there are nationalities of tourists in Mauritius. In a way, it comes back to the desire to nurture and look after guests in our country.