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The Economic Integration of our island economy into that of Continental Africa

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Considering the renewed interest in regionalization, or to use a more fashionable term – the glocalization of our economic interests in this post-Covid era, continental Africa is being seriously considered as a critical part of the solution on the way forward. Indeed revitalizing, if not restructuring, the Mauritian economy in the wake of this latest crisis certainly calls for a more imaginative approach and greater resoluteness in defining how to tap into the opportunities offered by what some have called the “last frontier” for economic opportunities, the consequences of COVID-19 notwithstanding. The bleak experience of highly developed countries finding themselves in short supply of such basic products as medical masks and other protective medical equipment in the face of a sudden pandemic has raised real question marks about the feasibility of the global supply chains and sourcing patterns that have been at the heart of the dominant globalization model over the past decades. It is in this dynamic process of breakdown and reconstruction of an essential determinant of global trade networks that the economic regionalization or what we prefer to call the economic integration of our African island economy into that of Continental Africa becomes a realistic opportunity.

Against the above background the following is a brief description of a possible way forward. It is perhaps useful to state here that the term “strategy” as used hereafter is not meant as a formal exercise leading to a series of rigid sequential actions, but should rather be viewed as strategic vision – a general orientation adopted by the decision makers and a declared political will to remain constant and coherent in maintaining and promoting that orientation.

Our vision : Mauritius acknowledged as the ideal and undisputed regional platform for doing business across the continent of Africa.

Our mission : To create the right ecosystem in Mauritius for attracting a pool of talent, financial resources and state of the art technology to actively participate in the emergence of Africa as the last frontier for investments and provide an efficient hub in the context of the global interest to promote rapid and sustainable socio-economic transformation on the Continent.

OUR STRATEGY – Definitions

Strategy – Crafting a new situation from prevailing conditions, more favourable to the application of our core strengths for achieving our objectives.

Strategizing – Interacting with other actors to achieve our ends.

Why an Africa strategy

1.The need for Mauritius to develop an Africa strategy is grounded in historical and geographical factors as well as deliberate political options taken at the time of accession to independence.

2.It also starts from the premise that “arguably the best thing that could happen to Mauritius would be a prosperous continental Africa.”

3.Foreign Direct Investments in Mauritius have lately been concentrated in real estate and hospitality industry. The appetite for investments in the industrial or services sector whether from local or foreign sources can only be justified if there are prospects for a wider market and possible economies of scale and scope.  The rising middle classes and economic growth potential in Africa remain a challenging but real opportunity for companies in such areas as health, education, automotive, pharmaceuticals etc.

The strategy

1.The end game of the Africa strategy will therefore be the optimization of integration of our small African island economy into that of continental Africa.

THE MEANS: The above will be achieved by creating bridges through, among other actions,

1.An acceleration of the process of signing of government to government cooperation framework agreements;

2.Leveraging the benefits of our membership in the SADC and the COMESA;

3.Setting up a database to constantly monitor and capture the quickly evolving socio economic and political landscape in Africa and develop knowledge capital in collaboration with academia;

4.Organizing exchanges between African social, economic, and academic leaders and their Mauritian counterparts;

5.Promoting investments by Mauritian companies and Mauritian/African JVs on the continent;

6.Promoting investments by African companies and African/Mauritian JVs in Mauritius;

7.Promoting head quartering of companies doing business in Africa;

8.Promoting Mauritius as a manufacturing base for exports to Africa;

9.Promoting backward and forward integration of the production value chains between Mauritius and Africa;

10.Increasing connectivity between Mauritius and the continent.

TIMING : 1.It is an undeniable fact that the much hyped and talked about Africa strategy is already long overdue.

2.One can still argue that perhaps the objective conditions for such a strategy did not initially exist. That excuse is not valid anymore and although “rising Africa” has been on the agenda for more that a decade now we are still lagging in the process. The threat is that we may one day wake up to find that we have missed a great opportunity.

3.The COVID-19 pandemic, for all its harmful effects, may in this juncture present a great opportunity. Global value chains have been in some cases irreparably damaged and such notions as Just in Time delivery and distance from markets are being challenged.  Nearness to markets looks likely to emerge as the next “mantra” of logistics and supply chain definition.

4.Given all the competitive edge that we have mentioned earlier Mauritius is well positioned to benefit from this new trend for export of services as well as manufactured products, including through the Freeport.

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