NAT THANCANAMOOTOO

Mauritius has gone through many phases and its global footprint has changed over the years. Once upon a time a budding port with invaluable strategic value it transformed itself into a one crop economy that supplied sugar to the old world. Then another transition saw the focus shift to the tourism sector and soon after to a financial economy. These shifts have happened over decades but the frequency of change keeps accelerating. With that in mind there is a need to become more agile when changing.

With the many scandals that have come to light recently lifting the veil on the underbelly of a blackened system, the reputation of Paradise island has taken a hit it might not recover from. With Covid it can even be considered a two-punch combo as tourists are also hard to come by these days. It is time for another shift.

The finance minister’s vision for next year at least, puts our future in the hands of the construction sector. In his defense, infrastructure is a commendable cause for the people to live and travel with increased efficiency and comfort. The question is, for what? What are the people going to do? What is our direction? What will we provide to the world? What is the long term vision for Mauritius?

Maybe we could work towards becoming a digital fortress, and by that I don’t mean sticking words like “cyber” as prefixes and believing that it makes it so. Nor do I mean to fall for the fakery that are “smart cities”. There is not a single smart city in this country, let alone a smart building. A smart infrastructure is one where a central unit monitors and controls several critical aspects like electricity, water, air or traffic to make it as efficient as possible. Show me where this exists here after so much smart talk.

No, we need to work on the foundations, we need to walk before we run or fly. Mauritius Telecom has performed well in extending the fiber network, now it needs to rope in Rodrigues and add the finishing touches. Consolidate the network internally, maintain the quality of the connection towards Africa and consider adding more. The education system should also evolve to integrate new subjects such as programming, networking and digital design. This will provide the base that will allow for more ideas to be born and flourish and this is the new asset that will attract those investors we want so badly.

We were once considered the Jewel of the Indian Ocean or the beacon of Africa and we were. But Governments have wasted time and energy being greedy and fighting over power. We have used big words that ultimately meant nothing and the people have been lied to time and time again. So much so that we have begun to lie to ourselves. Some say we have hit rock bottom. I say good. Once we hit rock bottom there is nowhere to go but up. That requires that some men and women roll up their sleeves and get to some real work. With some luck they can get their hands out of our pockets just long enough to start moulding a new Vision.