Africa is defying the current slowdown in global foreign direct investment and Mauritius, as a rapidly evolving International Finance Centre (IFC), is contributing its part to the roughly $46bn worth of FDI flowing into Africa in 2018, an 11 percent increase compared to 2017. This is evidenced in the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) World Investment Report 2019.
The report highlights the important role played by regional hubs like Mauritius in intra – regional investment flow. FDI stock from India, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa and Thailand to Small Island Developing States (SIDS) is almost all concentrated in Mauritius, as a gateway to other African markets. Mauritius is the third largest destination, accounting for 16 per cent (compared with 12 per cent in 2013) of the United States FDI stock in (SIDS).
James Zhan, the director of UNCTAD’s Investment and Enterprise Division and the author of the report, acknowledges the efforts of Mauritius to establish frameworks to attract international investment.
“Mauritius, an island nation, has a strategy to attract outside investment. The government is quite clear. They are shifting their priorities and are building the island as a business hub and offering more business services to East African countries” says Zhan.
Mauritius is cited, in the report, as actively participating in the development of the continent through Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in various African countries. The aim is to create an environment conducive for local operators to tap into business opportunities in these countries and develop business corridors, as well as to enhance the demand for Mauritian products and share Mauritius’ experience in zone development. As the first African country to set up an EPZ in the 1970s, Mauritius continues to innovate in this area – most recently introducing a five-year tax holiday for companies collaborating in developing infrastructure in SEZs.
The UNCTAD report follows the recent budget speech by the Honourable Pravind Jugnauth, Mauritian Prime Minister and Minister of Finance and Economic Development in which he committed to expanding the country’s economic horizons to deepen economic diversification in partnership with other African countries.
The Prime Minister outlined plans to expand the accessibility of products and services across Africa by establishing a new framework for fund administration and fund management and revamping the existing Special Purpose Fund regime to ease access to new markets. To further diversify the product base of the Mauritius IFC, an umbrella licence for wealth management activities, a scheme for headquartering ‘e-commerce’ activities and a framework for Green Finance, are being introduced.
Priorities include building on the agreement with Mozambique to set up a regional value chain for Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG); developing a Textile City in Madagascar; developing projects to take advantage of the Industrial and Development Park in Naivasha, Kenya and consolidating ongoing initiatives in SEZs in Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana.
Long regarded as an IFC of substance and repute, Mauritius is also a jurisdiction on the move – bringing a new dynamism to the global financial landscape. While tax optimisation may have been a cornerstone of its offering in the past, the Mauritius IFC has diversified as a financial eco-system providing a wide range of products and services of interest to investors in Africa. These include investment banking, global legal advisory services, global headquarters administration, global treasury activities, overseas family offices and asset and fund management schemes.
An efficient banking system, one of Africa’s leading and most innovative Stock Exchanges, modern infrastructure, an investment friendly regulatory regime and a skilled and bilingual workforce add to the attractiveness of the jurisdiction to investors.
The Mauritius IFC is rated as fully compliant with the OECD standards on transparency and exchange of information for tax purposes and, in the ESAAMLG Follow Up report, in May 2019, successfully obtained an upgrade of 11 FATF recommendations, demonstrating significant progress in meeting technical compliance.
Considered as a highly compliant jurisdiction according to international best practices, the Mauritius IFC has been ranked first in Africa in the World Bank Doing Business Index, Global Competitiveness Index and Forbes Survey of Best Countries for Business.