How is Mauritius positioning itself as a financial hub for Africa?
The demand for foreign currency funding in Africa is high. And Mauritius, being an international financial centre, has basically a large pool of foreign currency liquidity. We are thus in an ideal position to become the region’s financial hub. AfrAsia, and other Mauritian banks, are already acting on this by helping multinationals as well as other companies operating on the African market raise funds in foreign currencies from Mauritius. This service is not one offered only to businesses; it is also available to banks in Africa as it is even harder for them to obtain foreign currency liquidity. We can thus be the missing link. The fact that several Mauritian banks are providing this service is great for the country and will help develop the financial system in Mauritius.
What are the difficulties in the way of Mauritius becoming the region’s financial hub?
The main obstacle is connectivity. I know that the government, as well as other stakeholders, are working on this issue. It is important and we need to then market ourselves as a connecting hub for the sub-Saharan region. Out of all those investing in Africa, the investors closest to us are the ones located in Asia. We can act as a gateway between the two continents. Today everyone uses Johannesburg to connect to the rest of the continent. We can, as a country, compete for that position with the right infrastructure and investment. There are, for instance, many mining companies in Asia and Australia that do business with Africa and have mines there. We need to also attract the talent and expertise to Mauritius so that we can provide financial advisory services to the region. So instead of difficulties I would say these are opportunities to tap into for our country.
Are there other obstacles of a cultural or political nature?
East Africa is close to us. Culturally-speaking, they are not that different from us and the countries are all connected to Mauritius in some small way. So, I do not think that focusing on East Africa - from South Africa to Ethiopia - for our development is a problem. We should however not forget about Ghana and Nigeria which are the two largest economies of West Africa. Africans are more welcoming to our people because they recognise the Mauritian success story and they view us as their own and this is a huge advantage for us.
Which promising sectors in Africa could be of interest to Mauritian investors?
Agriculture, for example, has great potential. There is demand in Africa for agricultural products. Mauritius can provide financial consulting services to the mining industry, for which there have been
a lot of initiatives already recently. There is a large pool of liquidity in Mauritius and if our banks start working together, this will unlock a huge potential that could help us become the African mining
industry’s financial centre. The other key area is import-export where Mauritius boasts a better rating than other countries in Africa. It is thus easier for Asian and European banks to accept our country risk. We can become the financial hub for business in the region.