Mauritius will enchant you, will uplift your soul, making you feel that you belong to the chosen few. Every visitor enjoys personal attention. Every encounter is an opportunity to discover a friendly face. Behind each smile lies the promise of a unique holiday. The contrast of a multitude of colors and tastes, the island, set in its turquoise sea, is an oasis of peace and tranquility. Mauritius, a melting pot where past and present are smoothly blended together, offers an essential beauty that will compel to return to its shores time and time again.
While interviewing the Ambassador of Mauritius to Pakistan, H.E. Mr. Elahee, team Fire learned about few interesting and stimulating things about this exquisite scenic country.
Mauritius is a blend of diverse cultures and religions. Mauritius is the only country in Africa where Hinduism is the largest religion. Mauritius is a multiethnic society, drawn from Indian, African, European (mostly French) and Chinese origin.
An officially secular state, Mauritius is a religiously diverse nation, with freedom of religion being enshrined as a constitutional right. The vibrant and colorful culture of the Mauritian people is reflected in the various religious festivities that are celebrated throughout the year, some of which are recognized as public holidays. Mauritius is the only country in Africa to have a Hindu plurality.
The ambassador also told that the Mauritian constitution makes no mention of an official language. In Parliament, the official language is English; however, any member of the National Assembly can also address the chair in French.
Mauritius has a life expectancy of 75years and a literacy rate of 90%
The government of Mauritius provides free education to its citizens from pre-primary to tertiary level.
Along with the other Mascarene Islands, Mauritius is known for its varied flora and fauna, with many species endemic to the island. The island is widely known as the only known home of the dodo, which, along with several other avian species, was made extinct by human activities relatively shortly after the island’s settlement. The country is home to some of the world’s rarest plants and animals.
The environment in Mauritius is typically tropical in the coastal regions with forests in the mountainous areas. Mauritius ranked second in an air quality index released by the World Health Organization.
The most popular sport in Mauritius is football. Other popular sports in Mauritius include cycling, table tennis, badminton, volleyball, basketball, handball, boxing, judo, karate, taekwondo, weightlifting, bodybuilding and athletics. Water sports includes swimming, sailing, scuba diving, and water skiing.
The island’s government is closely modelled on the Westminster parliamentary system.
While discussing the bilateral relations between Mauritius and Pakistan H.E. Elahee informed that the Mauritian economy is based on four sectors: Textile, Tourism, Sugar and Services.
“Although the potential to enhance trade between the two countries exists but it is not reflecting in the trade volume” said the ambassador. He further said that more aggressive strategy along with collective efforts are needed to improve trade and investment ties between the two countries. He said, adding that through effective analysis and utilization of trade promotion platforms, the bilateral trade can be increased.
As soon as Mauritius achieved its independence in 1968, the Government of Mauritius opened the Mauritius High Commission in Islamabad in March 1970. However, relations between Pakistan and Mauritius can be traced back to more than 2 centuries when migrants left South Asia to settle in Mauritius under colonial British rule.
Over the past 50 years or so relations between Mauritius and Pakistan has evolved and today we can boast of a vibrant relationship which is just not limited to Government to Government but also include the private sector and the populations of both the countries.
“Today we are at another cross road in our relationship, at the time when Pakistan is investing in the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). I believe this should also provide the private sector of Mauritius opportunities to link up in this Mammoth Project” H.E. Elahee said.
He further added, “With the new philosophy of the Government of Pakistan to promote an export-led development strategy, I appeal to entrepreneurs and businessman from Pakistan to also explore the potentialities of the Mauritius market in the areas like tourism, ICT, medical devices, sports goods, including rice and agro-industrial products.”
The market of Mauritius is limited to the size of its population. However, Mauritius has concluded FTAs with SADC and COMESA countries which comprise all Southern and Eastern African countries. Hence, the market can be a huge one provided investors in Pakistan decide to invest in Mauritius to cash on the preferential rules of origin in those FTAs and export their products to those African countries. Mauritius has a good logistics support and their banks are rated highly as far as the management of funds are concerned. Likewise, the air-links are good and Air Mauritius, the national carrier is aiming to extend its activities to many countries in Southern and Eastern Africa.
“I am optimistic that investors in Pakistan who have business in Dubai, Malaysia, Singapore, China or London or any other Western country might consider the option of Mauritius while planning their trips and their investment” said the ambassador. He was also of the view that the Pakistani Investors/ Businessmen in addition might also take some days off to enjoy the hospitality of their hotels and people.
“Mauritius, a gateway for trade in Africa”
He expressed his view on the trade volume and believed that it can be increased. “We have a bilateral Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) signed in 2007 which covers at least 100 or so product lines which remain untapped” H.E. Elahee informed. So far, Pakistan has been primarily exporting rice and textiles and clothing to Mauritius. It needs to diversify in other products like gems and jewelry, an area in which Pakistan and Mauritius can mutually benefit from each other’s experience. In addition Mauritius ambitions to become a medical hub for African countries but also to promote medical tourism which is growing component of the Tourism industry.
Mauritius is a major tourist destination, ranking 3rd in the region and 56th globally.
“I wish here, to emphasize that Mauritius each year welcomes more than one million tourists. Hence, in my tenure, I would endeavor my best to promote Mauritius as a tourism destination, but also Mauritius as a gateway for trade and investment in Africa” said Mr. Elahee. Mauritius has preferential trade agreements with southern and eastern African states encompassing more than 30 African states.
The medical domain remains an area which has huge potentialities. Pakistani doctors have been active in eye treatment. A team of heart surgery also visited Mauritius and collaboration has started. Another area will be in the domain of blood collection. Pakistan has expertise which can benefit Mauritius. In addition cooperation in the area if disabled persons would also be a win-win scenario.
Pakistan is emerging as a leader in Islamic Finance and Mauritius has a financial sector which has the ambition to play a leading regional role akin to Singapore but with focus on Africa. Mauritius also wishes to add the Islamic finance dimension to its activities, in addition, Mauritius has opened its legal services sector to the world and has the desire to turn Mauritius in a hub for business arbitration and meditation. “Hence, I believe that there are many complementarities in the financial sector between Mauritius and Pakistan which are attractive to cross border movement of capital and skilled labor” the ambassador assured.
I believe that Pakistan is taking many positive steps in the protection of minorities, woman and children in accordance to its multilateral commitments under those UN Conventions / Treaties ratified. Our countries are already cooperating in the UN, and officials from Pakistan can visit Mauritius to see how we manage our diversity. However, each country has its own characteristics and specific problems. “Hence, I would believe that the issue is not about being a Muslim or a non-Muslim country. Rather, it is about resources and having the institutions to promote social justice and gender balance” he said. Each country would meet to invent its own recipe to establish the required societal balance, conductive to harmony and religious tolerance.
PTAP has helped Mauritius develop its critical human resources. Today, also Mauritian students are benefiting from scholarships offered by Pakistan. “If I may suggest one mean to further render those scholarships attractive, I would state hat those MBBS Scholarships might be upgraded with the possibility for the beneficiaries to undertake post graduate Medical Studies in Pakistan” His Excellency added.
Mauritius imports rice from Pakistan. Rice is a staple food and since Mauritius totally depends on imports of rice to meets its requirements, Pakistan has been a reliable and friendly country in helping us achieve our food security. Likewise, those Pakistani firms exporting rice have benefited since Mauritius is a secure and high premium market.
There has been a slight diversification in both our imports and exports. For instance biscuits mangoes and oranges from Pakistan are sold in Mauritius. This is but a beginning and we need to tap the agro industry chain which can be a win – win partnership.
Our political leaders have respectively expressed the wish to upgrade the PTA into an F.T.A. the technicians are now considering the ways and means to translate this commitment into an improved free trade agreement. Both sides are working on it.
“Pakistan is bound to become a major economy of the world in the years to come”- H.E. Elahee.
Hence opportunities are many. In terms of our priority, the cooperation in the seafood hub sector would be a win – win case in the short to medium term. Likewise, in the domain of textiles, technical fabrics would be worth exploring. The fact that Mauritius is a net food importing developing country, the agro- industrial sector would also be an area which would be worthy of interest.
Direct flights are a good option but there are other strategies which promote connectivity. Much depend on the product which is being packaged by both countries. Countries are now negotiating a new generation of air services agreement which go beyond the granting of fifth freedom rights. “I believe there is scope for cultural/ religious tourism of a triangular sort which has not really been addressed, so far. Both elements are highly emotional in contents and do contribute in improving people to people interaction” His Excellency concluded.
Mauritius is now building its infrastructure for the next twenty years. So do, visit Mauritius and see how you could bring your contribution in that venture.