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Mauritius

Executive Summary

Mauritius is an island nation with a population of 1.3 million people. The Government of Mauritius (GoM) claims an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of approximately 2.3 million square kilometers, but its undisputed EEZ amounts to approximately 1.3 million square kilometers, in addition to jointly managing about 388,000 square kilometers of continental shelf with Seychelles. Mauritius has maintained a stable and competitive economy. Real GDP grew at an average of 4.7 percent from 1968 to 2017, enabling the country to achieve middle-income status in less than 50 years. In 2020, Mauritius’ GDP was $11 billion and its gross national income per capita amounted to $10,230. In July 2020, the World Bank classified Mauritius as a high-income country based on 2019 data, but Mauritius reverted to upper-middle income status in 2021 due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pandemic severely damaged the economy. Tourism, which contributed around 20 percent to the economy pre-COVID, did not return as expected following the reopening of borders in October 2021. There was a moderate rebound in exports of goods, but exports of services declined further due to the difficult situation in the tourism sector. The GoM estimated that GDP growth would increase 4.8 percent in 2021, with contractions in tourism (18.8 percent) and sugar (9.6 percent), according to Statistics Mauritius.  The IMF forecasted that the economy would grow 6.7 percent growth in 2022. Unemployment was estimated at 9.2 percent at the end of 2020, while inflation for 2021 was 4.0 percent.

One of the poorest countries in Africa at independence in 1968, Mauritius has become one of the continent’s wealthiest. It successfully diversified its economy away from sugarcane monoculture to a manufacturing and service-based economy driven by export-oriented manufacturing (mainly textiles), tourism, financial and business services, information and communication technology, seafood processing, real estate, and education/training. Before COVID-19, authorities planned to stimulate economic growth in five areas: serving as a gateway for investment into Africa; increasing the use of renewable energy; developing smart cities; growing the blue economy; and modernizing infrastructure, especially public transportation, the port, and the airport.

In November 2021 at the Conference of Parties 26 (COP 26), the GoM pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent of the business-as-usual scenario 2030 figures. To achieve this target, the government plans to undertake major reforms in its energy, transport, waste, refrigeration and air-conditioning, agriculture, and conservation sectors. The government aims to produce 60 percent of the country’s energy from green sources by 2030, to phase out the total use of coal before 2030, and to increase energy efficiency by 10 percent based on 2019 figures. As part of the national strategy to modernize the public transport system, the light rail network that launched in 2019 is expected to be extended. The government was also working to diversify 70 percent of waste from the landfill by 2030 through the implementation of composting plants, sorting units, biogas plants and waste-to-energy plants.

In 2020 and 2021, however, officials focused on supporting sectors whose revenue disappeared due to the pandemic. In May 2020, the Bank of Mauritius (BoM) set up the Mauritius Investment Corporation (MIC) to mitigate the economic downturn due to the pandemic. The BoM invested $2 billion of foreign exchange reserves in the MIC which were largely directed towards the pharmaceutical and blue economy sectors, in addition to assisting companies that suffered during the pandemic. The BoM also intervened regularly on the domestic foreign exchange market to supply foreign currency.

Government policy in Mauritius is pro-trade and investment. The GoM has signed Double Taxation Avoidance Agreements with 46 countries and maintains a well-regarded legal and regulatory framework. Mauritius has been eager to attract foreign direct investment from China and India, as well as courting more traditional markets like the United Kingdom, France, and the United States. The China-Mauritius free-trade agreement went into effect on January 1, 2021. Mauritius also signed a preferential trade agreement with India, which went into effect in April 2021. The GoM promotes Mauritius as a safe, secure place to do business due to its favorable investment climate and tradition as a stable democracy. Corruption in Mauritius is low by regional standards, but recent political and economic corruption scandals illustrated there was room for improvement in terms of transparency and accountability. For instance, a commercial dispute between a U.S. investor and a parastatal partner that turned into a criminal investigation has raised questions of governmental impartiality.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2021 49 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview
Global Innovation Index 2021 52 of 132 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2020 $8,300 https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2020 $10,230 https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

 

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

3. Legal Regime

4. Industrial Policies

5. Protection of Property Rights

6. Financial Sector

7. State-Owned Enterprises

The government’s stated policy is to act as a facilitator to business, leaving production to the private sector. The government, however, still controls key services directly or through parastatal companies in the power and water, television broadcasting, and postal service sectors.

The government also holds controlling shares in the State Bank of Mauritius, Air Mauritius (the national airline), and Mauritius Telecom. These state-controlled companies have Boards of Directors on which seats are allocated to senior government officials. The government nominates the chairperson and CEO of each of these companies. In April 2020, Air Mauritius requested voluntary administration, similar to Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the United States, because it could not comply with financial obligations. The national airline exited voluntary administration in September 2021 following a $280 million government bailout in the form of a loan arrangement through the central bank’s Mauritius Investment Corporation. In October 2021, a newly created state-owned enterprise, Airport Holdings Ltd., acquired 9.43 million shares in Air Mauritius, gaining effective control of the airline.

The government also invests in a wide variety of Mauritian businesses through its investment arm, the State Investment Corporation. The government is also the owner of Maubank and the National Insurance Company.

Two parastatal entities are involved in the importation of agricultural products: the Agricultural Marketing Board (AMB) and the State Trading Corporation (STC). The AMB’s role is to ensure that the supply of certain basic food products is constant, and their prices remain affordable. The STC is the only authorized importer of petroleum products, liquefied petroleum gas, and flour. SOEs purchase from or supply goods and services to private sector and foreign firms through tenders.

Audited accounts of SOEs are published in their annual reports. Mauritius is part of the OECD network on corporate governance of state-owned enterprises in southern Africa.

The Declaration of Assets Act (DoA Act) was enacted in December 2018 and took effect in June 2019. It provides that certain key officials of the public sector, including chief executives of state-owned enterprises, must declare their assets and liabilities with the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC). The declaration includes the assets and liabilities of spouses and minor children. This declaration is published on the website of ICAC. A list of SOEs is published in the Declaration of Assets (State-owned Enterprises) Regulations 2019: https://www.icac.mu/declaration-of-assets/ .

8. Responsible Business Conduct

The National Committee for Corporate Governance (NCCG) was established under Section 63 of the Financial Reporting Act (2004) and is the coordinating body responsible for all matters pertaining to corporate governance in Mauritius. The NCCG was attached to the Ministry of Financial Services and Good Governance until 2021, when it was recognized as a corporate body following an amendment to the Financial Reporting Act. The purpose of the Committee is to: (i) establish principles and practices of corporate governance; (ii) promote the highest standards of corporate governance; (iii) promote public awareness about corporate governance principles and practices; and (iv) act as the national coordinating body responsible for all matters pertaining to corporate governance. The latest Code of Corporate Governance for Mauritius (2016) was launched on February 13, 2017 and can be accessed at https://nccg.mu/full-code. In 2021, the NCCG also launched a Corporate Governance Scorecard to introduce an objective and quantitative element for companies to report on compliance. The Financial Reporting Council (FRC), also set up under the Financial Reporting Act (2004), aims to advocate for the provision of high-quality reporting of financial and non-financial information by public interest entities and to improve the quality of accountancy and audit service. Mauritius does not have a dedicated center for research on corporate governance.

The Ministry of Financial Services and Good Governance was established following the December 2014 elections. Its mandate is to provide guidance and support for enforcement of good governance and the eradication of corruption. In 2015, the Financial Services Commission introduced a Code of Business Conduct as part of its Fair Market Conduct Program. The Financial Services Commission has also introduced several measures in 2020 and 2021 to comply with recommendations made by the Financial Action ask Force for enhancing anti-money laundering and combatting terrorism financing standards.

The Mauritius Institute of Directors (MIoD) is an independent, private sector-led organization that also promotes high standards and best practices of corporate governance, with additional information available at http://www.miod.mu .

In 2017, the government set up a National Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Foundation, which operated under the Ministry of Social Integration and Economic Empowerment. In 2019, this foundation became the National Social Inclusion Foundation (NSIF). The NSIF is managed by a council consisting of members from the private and public sectors, civil society, and academia. Under the 2016 Finance Act, every company registered in Mauritius must set up a CSR fund and annually contribute the equivalent of 2 percent of its taxable income from of the previous year. In 2017 and 2018, companies were required to remit at least 50 percent of their CSR funds to tax authorities for the National CSR Foundation. The required contribution increased in 2019 to 75 percent for CSR funds set up on or after January 1, 2019. The NSIF is supposed to channel the money to NGO projects in priority areas identified by the government. These priority areas are poverty alleviation, educational support, social housing, family protection, people with severe disabilities, and victims of substance abuse. Further details can be found on the NSIF and MRA websites: https://www.nsif.mu  and https://www.mra.mu/download/CSRGuide.pdf .

9. Corruption

The prevalence of corruption in Mauritius is low by regional standards, but graft and nepotism nevertheless remain concerns and are increasingly a source of public frustration. Several high-profile cases involving corruption have reinforced the perception that corruption exists at the highest political levels, despite the fact that Mauritian law provides for criminal penalties for corruption by officials. According to Transparency Mauritius, the absence of a law regulating the financing of political parties fuels corruption. A former prime minister was arrested in 2015 on allegations of money laundering, though courts have since dismissed all charges. The state prosecutors appealed the last dismissal in late 2019 and court proceedings are ongoing, with the latest hearing held in February 2022. A minister in the previous government stepped down in 2016 after allegations of bribery. In March 2017, allegations surfaced concerning possible political interference in the Financial Services Commission’s issuance of an investment banking license to Angolan billionaire Alvaro Sobrinho, who is being investigated for alleged corruption in Portugal. In March 2018, the president of Mauritius resigned after press reported that she bought apparel, jewelry, and a laptop computer with a credit card provided by an NGO financed by the same Angolan businessman. In June 2020, the prime minister dismissed his deputy prime minister following allegations of bribery and corruption in a public energy contract. In February 2021, the minister of commerce stepped down amid allegations of corruption and abuse of power.

Investors should know that while the constitution and law require arrest warrants to be based on sufficient evidence and issued by a magistrate, police may detain an individual for up to 21 days under a “provisional charge” based on a reasonable suspicion, with the concurrence of a magistrate. Two French businessmen claimed that, in February 2015, authorities held them against their will. A U.S. investor has been unable to leave Mauritius since February 1, 2020, without charges filed against him.

In 2002, the government adopted the Prevention of Corruption Act, which led to the establishment of an Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC). ICAC has the power to investigate corruption and money laundering offenses and can also seize the proceeds of corruption and money laundering. The director and board members of ICAC are nominated by the prime minister. The Good Governance and Integrity Reporting Act of 2015 was announced as a measure to recover “unexplained wealth” and came into force in early 2016. Critics of the act dislike its presumption of guilt, which requires the accused to demonstrate a lawful source of questionable assets, as well as the application of the law retroactively for seven years. The 2018 Declaration of Assets Act (DoA) entered into force in June 2019 and defines which public officials are required to declare assets and liabilities to the ICAC. These public officials include members of the National Assembly, mayors, chairpersons and chief executive officers of state-owned enterprises and statutory bodies, among others. This declaration is published on the website of ICAC: https://www.icac.mu/declaration-of-assets/disclosure-of-declarations/ .

Mauritius’ rating by the Corruption Perceptions Index of Transparency International improved in 2021. The country was rated the 49th least-corrupt nation out of 180 countries, compared to 52nd in 2020 and 56th in 2019. However, Mauritius retained its first rank in overall governance in Africa for the 10th consecutive year, according to the 2020 Ibrahim Index of African Governance.

U.S. investors, in conversations with embassy personnel, have not identified corruption as an obstacle to investment in the country. They have, however, encountered attempts for bribery.

Although the country lacks laws on political party financing, Mauritius has legislation to combat corruption by public officials. These include laws dealing with the declaration of assets, asset recovery, prevention of corruption, anti-money laundering, and criminal offenses related to abuse of office by public officials.

However, legal loopholes exist, and enforcement is weak. Allegations of corruption and misallocation of government contracts by public entities occurred in 2020, namely the use of emergency procurement procedures during the pandemic to allegedly enrich friends and family of those in power.

According to Transparency Mauritius, more companies have introduced control and risk management protocols and adopted code of ethics and good business conduct, even if these do no target government officials. The Prevention of Corruption Act targets mainly the public sector, but there is no whistleblower protection law.

Mauritius has ratified the UNCAC, but has not yet adopted all the recommendations, such as the criminalization of corruption in the private sector. According to Transparency Mauritius, NGOs involved in fighting corruption are not given enough protection and funding.

10. Political and Security Environment

Mauritius has a long tradition of political and social stability. Civil unrest and political violence are uncommon. Free and fair national elections are held every five years with the last general elections held in November 2019. Those most recent elections took place without incident. The current prime minister, Pravind Jugnauth previously served as finance minister, and was appointed prime minister 2017 after his father resigned (in accordance with the constitution). Jugnauth won reelection in 2019. In August 2020 and February 2021, civilians engaged in mass protests following allegations of corruption and mismanagement by the government. The protests were orderly and without incident.

Crime rates are low, but petty and violent crime can occur. Visitors should keep track of their belongings at all times due to the potential for pickpocketing and purse-snatching, especially in crowded and tourist areas. Visitors should also avoid walking alone, particularly on isolated beaches and at night, and should avoid demonstrations.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

According to the GoM, employment of Mauritians stood at 476,100 in September 2021 (289,100 males and 187,000 females), a decrease from 507,100 in 2020, and 591,000 in 2019. The number of unemployed stood at 49,800 in September 2021, a decrease from 52,200 in 2020. In 2019, the number of unemployed was estimated at 39,700. The unemployment rate for the third quarter of 2021 was estimated at 9.5 percent, compared to 10.5 percent in the second quarter of 2021 and 10.4 percent in the third quarter of 2020. Employment in large establishments (employing 10 or more persons) as of March 2021 was estimated at 305,532 (186,227 male and 119, 305 female) out of which 30, 013 were foreign workers (23,961 males and 6,052 females).

The labor market remains restricted by rising unemployment among graduates and low-skilled workers, and a high number of unemployed women. It is further characterized by a persistent mismatch between qualifications of the unemployed and the skills required in an increasingly services-oriented economy. Government labor market programs aimed at building human capital have been extended, with policies to develop skills of the unemployed focusing on apprenticeships and placements. In November 2016, the government introduced the National Skills Development Program (NSDP), a fully-funded technical training program for youth, which was still running as of April 2020. The NSDP is managed by the Human Resource Development Council (HRDC), which operates under the Ministry of Education and is responsible for promoting the development of the labor force in Mauritius. The HRDC, with technical and financial support from the French development agency, is also devising a National Skills Development Strategy (NSDS) for 2020-2024. The aim of the NSDS is to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of skills development programs. The HRDC, in collaboration with the Economic Development Board (EDB), has also established a Skills Development Support Scheme for Foreign Direct Investment to support foreign investors in training their employees. Through this scheme, the HRDC provides eligible employers up to 80 percent of the total amount disbursed on training; the remaining 20 percent is incurred by the employer. The objective is to develop technical expertise and specialization, and likewise boost the skills base for attracting FDI.

In 2018, the government introduced the SME Employment Scheme, which allows SMEs to employ recent graduates, whose monthly stipends are paid by the government for one year. In 2019, the government expanded the program to diploma holders.

In 2017, the National Assembly passed the National Employment Act. This act repealed the Employment and Training Act and introduced a modern legislative framework. The act provides the labor market with information on supply and demand of skills, job seekers, and training institutions; promotes placement and training of job seekers, including young persons and persons with disabilities; and promotes labor migration and home-based work.

In November 2017, the Equal Opportunities Act was amended to protect prospective employees with criminal records from discrimination when being considered for recruitment or promotion.

In 2018, the government introduced a minimum monthly wage of 9,000 Mauritian rupees (approximately $209) for all workers, which impacted over 100,000 low-paid workers. In November 2019, the cabinet, following a recommendation from the National Wage Consultative Council, increased the minimum wage again to 10,200 rupees ($237), effective January 2020. The minimum wage was further increased to 10,575 rupees ($246) in January 2022.

Workers’ rights are protected under the 2019 Workers’ Rights Act. The legislation provides, among others: a portable retirement gratuity fund; fair compensation in case of termination; harmonization of working conditions in different sectors; the flexibility to request the right to work from home either on a full- or part-time basis; and equal remuneration for equal work. The act also expands the Equal Opportunities Act through several measures against discrimination in employment and occupation.

Trade unions are independent of the government and employers. Mauritius has an active trade union movement that about 25 percent of the workforce, and labor-management relations are generally positive. The last major strike affecting the economy took place in 1979. The government generally seeks to avoid strikes through a system that promotes settlement through negotiation or arbitration. Disputes are resolved at the Conciliation and Mediation Section of the Ministry of Labor or at the Commission for Conciliation and Mediation. If the matter is not resolved, it is referred to the Employment Relations Tribunal. Mauritius participates actively in the annual International Labor Organization (ILO) conference in Geneva, Switzerland, and adheres to ILO core conventions protecting workers’ rights.

14. Contact for More Information

Anjana Khemraz-Chikhuri
Economic & Commercial Assistant
U.S. Embassy to Mauritius and Seychelles, Port-Louis, Mauritius
+ 230 202 4400
ChikhuriA@state.gov

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