Mauritius: Proof that size doesn’t matter

By Neil De Beer Time of article published May 30, 2019

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JOHANNESBURG - Cirné, the island named by Portuguese navigator Pedro Mascarenhas in 1510, was later renamed Maurice by the Dutch who, in 1598, claimed the uninhabited island and renamed it after their head of state, Maurice, Prince of Orange and Count of Nassau.

Mauritius, an Indian Ocean Island today, has an estimated population of 1.3million and a gross domestic product (GDP) of $13.34billion (R194.66bn), according to the World Bank.

Ranked as the most competitive country in Africa with a score of 63.7points on the latest Global Competitiveness Index, Mauritius is one of the two countries that has an index above the global median score of 60points and South Africa (60.8points).

In 2017 the country attracted 1.34million tourists, surpassing its own population and making the service sector the largest revenue source with an average of 74percent contribution to the GDP. The island, measuring 2040km2, is rich in scenic beauty and fringed by beaches with white sand and turquoise-coloured clear ocean waters. It's a tourist haven.

The Seven Coloured Earths are a geological formation and prominent tourist attraction found in the Chamarel plain of the Rivière Noire District in south-western Mauritius. It is a relatively small area of sand dunes comprising sand of seven distinct colours that has attracted multitudes of tourists. Mauritius is well known for a sound and robust financial sector and financial systems, which have influenced the influx of wealthy individuals to its shores over the past 10 years.

The most densely populated country in Africa has managed over the past few years to diversify its economy from being agri-based to become a multi-faceted economy, enjoying revenue from manufacturing, tourism and financial services. The once major net exporter of sugar cane is slowly becoming Africa’s financial hub and has proven to be a key player in attracting offshore investments, which play a huge role in Africa's growth and development. Mauritius remains the leader in the Ease of Doing Business Rankings in Africa and progressed from 25th to 20th place worldwide among 190 countries surveyed by the World Bank in 2019.

How is it that Madagascar - the 51st largest country in the world by population, which is only 1132km from Mauritius - remains one of the poorest countries in the world when Mauritius, its cousin island (158th largest) is the most competitive country in Africa. It ranks third in development from South Africa and the Seychelles.

Lessons can be drawn from the two countries and empirical evidence shows us that growth and development fundamentals are ensured by good governance and control of the political and business environment. The leaders in Africa must encourage public-private partnerships as they promote proactive policies.

Currently, one can buy a can of Coke at Rs36.76 (R14.60), and a litre of petrol for Rs47.91.

When we realise that Mauritius is the size of the Western Cape, you will then understand that this nation truly fights above its weight in the economy. Although known for its stunning beaches, fishing and water sports, slowly but surely this island is taking the shape of a true African Dubai. So, Africa must realise truly that “Size does not matter”.

* The winner of the pen from last week’s article on Zimbabwe is Carmelita Bowers. Please send your interesting fact on today's article to [email protected] and win the prize of an engraved Parker pen.

Neil De Beer is the current president of the IFA and advises numerous African states on economic development. or [email protected]


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