Overseas Business Risk – Mauritius
Political and Economic
The risk of political instability is low. Mauritius gained independence from United Kingdom in 1968 and since then has been a uni-cameral parliamentary democracy. The National Assembly consists of 70 MPs. 62 are directly elected under a first-past-the-post system. The remaining 8 are distributed according to a complex Best Loser formula designed to ensure equitable ethnic representation in Parliament.
Mauritius is considered one of the most business-friendly countries in Africa as a result of its political stability, good governance and independent judiciary.
The 2012 MoIbrahim Index of African Governance ranked Mauritius first in good governance. According to the 2012 Democracy Index compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit that measures the state of democracy in 167 countries, Mauritius ranks 18th worldwide and is the only African country with Full Democracy.
General elections are held every five years and have been relatively free of violence over the years. The most recent General Election was held on 5 May 2010 in all the 20 mainland constituencies, as well as the constituency covering the island of Rodrigues. Historically, elections have tended to be a contest between two major coalitions of parties.
Mauritius has transformed from a low-income economy based on agriculture (mainly sugar cane) to a diversified economy with developing financial, industrial, technology and tourist industries. With a per capita income of approximately US$260 in the 70’s, Mauritius is today classified as upper middle-income economy with a per capita GDP of US$ 8375.
Mauritius pursues a liberal and open economic policy and welcomes foreign investment in nearly all sectors of the economy. The economy rests on sugar, tourism, textiles and apparel, and financial services. It is strongly reliant on trade and investment with Europe, and more recently with emerging markets like India, and China. Mauritius wishes to position itself a regional hub for investment into Africa.
In 2012, foreign direct investment (FDI) reached US$ 422 million. The majority of FDI went to the real estate development, financial services and hotel and tourism sectors. United Kingdom, South Africa and France were the top 3 countries of origin of FDI.
Bribery and Corruption
Bribery is illegal. It is an offence for British nationals or someone who is ordinarily resident in the UK, a body incorporated in the UK or a Scottish partnership, to bribe anywhere in the world.
In addition, a commercial organisation carrying on a business in the UK can be liable for the conduct of a person who is neither a UK national or resident in the UK or a body incorporated or formed in the UK. In this case it does not matter whether the acts or omissions which form part of the offence take place in the UK or elsewhere.
In 2012, Mauritius was ranked 43rd out of 178 countries in the Transparency International’s corruption perception index (CPI).
There are ongoing investigations in some alleged property and financial scams. It is recommended that all investment in property and finance be verified with the relevant authorities such as Board of Investment or Financial Services Commission.
The threat of terrorism in Mauritius is low.
Protective Security Advice
Drug trafficking carries severe penalties.
Mauritius is generally a safe country. However, it is advisable that you do not let your guard down and that you maintain the same level of personal security as you would in the country that you are domiciled (e.g avoid unlit streets at night).
Infringement of copyright and intellectual property is not uncommon in Mauritius. It is recommended that you register your trademark and/or IP with the authorities.
Petty crime is common. Take care of bags and valuables in popular tourist areas including Port Louis, Grand Baie and Flic en Flac. Use a hotel safe, where practical. Keep copies of important documents, including passports, separately.
Make sure accommodation and hotel rooms are secure. Avoid renting accommodation that isn’t registered with the Ministry of Tourism.
Most crime is non-violent, but weapons have been used in some burglaries. Although uncommon, there have been some instances of sexual assault. Avoid walking alone at night on beaches or in poorly lit areas especially in the back streets of the business district of Port Louis.
There have been local media reports of street robberies near or at ATMs. Take extra care when withdrawing cash.
In 2011, an Irish tourist was murdered in her hotel room at a resort in the north of the Island. Incidents like this are very rare, but you should remain vigilant.
Please be aware that if you investigated by the police for a reported crime the Mauritian Police may place you under ‘provisional charge’ while they investigate the allegation. Although you can be detained on a provisional charge, most westerners are released on bail. However, the investigation to decide whether there is enough evidence for a formal charge can take many months; it is not uncommon for it to take over a year. While under ‘provisional charge’ you may be prevented from leaving the country or conducting business. If formally charged it may take many months for your case to be heard at court.