Mauritius, ranked 23rd in the world and no 1 in Africa in the World Bank Ease of Doing Business Report 2011, has established strong diplomatic and financial links with many countries in Africa.
The island is today increasingly determined to become a leading business and services hub that would facilitate flow of funds to Africa.
Since its independence in 1968, Mauritius has positioned itself squarely in Africa. It leveraged its colonial past and bilingualism to become a member of the now defunct OCAMM (Organisation Commune Africaine, Malgache et Mauricienne). It also joined the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), which held its Heads of States summit in the island in 1975.
Mauritius became a member of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), having been a founder- member of its precursor, the Preferential Trade Area and was the first island state to join the SADC (Southern African Development Community) in the 90s.
Mauritius was one of the initiator of the establishment of the Indian Ocean Commission in 1982 and was in 1995 one of the 7 founder members of the Indian Ocean Rim Initiative which became the Indian Ocean Rim-Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC).
This 19 member-state organisation has set up its secretariat in Mauritius.
The Bank of Mauritius serves as the Settlement Bank of the Regional Payments and Settlement System of COMESA. Mauritius hosts AFRITAC (South) the 4th regional technical assistance centre of the IMF in Africa. The COMESA Fund and the Africa Training Institute of the IMF will soon start operations in Mauritius.
The drive to be part of groupings emanates from the recognition that the continued growth and development of the island depends crucially on access to markets. Africa has always been considered as its natural hinterland. As Africa is becoming today the centre of attention of the developed world and emerging countries because of its wealth of natural resources, Mauritius is undoubtedly in a strategic position to facilitate cross-border investment into Africa.
The network of DTAs (the two latest signed with Kenya and Nigeria) and IPPAs is certainly an asset. More important is the fact that Mauritius can offer integrated services as the ITES/BPO sector which is well developed and is servicing global businesses.
It is therefore not a surprise that Mauritius was ranked 4th in Africa (The A.T. Kearney Global Services Location Index, 2011) and is also well rated in most competitiveness and Ease of doing business indices.
The ease of doing business is borne out by the fact that there are 13 international banks in Mauritius today and some 10,000 Global business companies, many of them facilitating business into Africa.
With the advent of new technology and improved communications, its position in the international time zone (GMT+ 4 Hrs.) that allows it to straddle part of business hours in the East and the West, Mauritius has the ambition to be once more the star and key of the Indian Ocean which incidentally is the motto of the Coat of Arms of the Republic of Mauritius: Stella clavisque maris indici (the Star and Key of the Indian Ocean)