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. Mauritius has a stable and competitive economy, with a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of USD 13.27 billion and per capita Gross National Income (GNI) of USD 10,130 in 2017. According to the International Monetary Fund, real GDP growth is estimated at 3.8 percent for 2018 and projected to reach 3.9 percent in 2019. The inflation rate decreased from 3.7 percent in 2017 to 3.2 percent in 2018. The unemployment rate decreased from 7.1 percent in 2017 to 6.9 percent in 2018. According to the World Bank’s 2019 Ease of Doing Business Index, Mauritius ranks first in Africa and 20th worldwide (out of 190 countries).
Since achieving independence in 1968, Mauritius has made a remarkable economic transformation from a mono-crop economy based on sugarcane production to a diversified economy driven by export-oriented manufacturing (mainly textiles), tourism, financial and business services, information and communication technology, seafood processing, real estate and education/training. Authorities plan to emphasize services and innovation in the coming years. After several years of sluggish growth, the Government of Mauritius (GoM) is undertaking efforts 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 ocean economy; and upgrading and modernizing infrastructure, including public transportation, the port, and the airport.
Government policy in Mauritius seeks to promote trade and investment. The GoM has signed Double Taxation Avoidance Agreements with 51 countries and maintains a legal and regulatory framework that keeps Mauritius highly ranked on “Ease of Doing Business” and good governance indices. In recent years, Mauritius has been especially intent on attracting foreign direct investment from emerging economies like China and India, as well as courting more traditional markets like the United Kingdom, France and the United States. The GoM, which is currently finalizing bilateral trade agreements with both India and China, 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 there remains room to improve in terms of transparency and accountability.
Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
|TI Corruption Perceptions Index||2018||51 of 180||http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview|
|World Bank’s Doing Business Report||2019||20 of 190||http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings|
|Global Innovation Index||2018||75 of 126||https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator|
|U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions)||2017||$10,424||http://www.bea.gov/international/factsheet/|
|World Bank GNI per capita||2017||$10,130||http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD|
1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment
Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment
Mauritius actively seeks foreign investment. The Investment Office (formerly the Board of Investment) of the Economic Development Board (EDB) is the single gateway government agency responsible for promoting investment in Mauritius, and for helping guide investors through the country’s legal and regulatory requirements.
According to a number of surveys and metrics, Mauritius is among the freest and most business-friendly countries in Africa. The 2019 Index of Economic Freedom, published by the Heritage Foundation, ranks Mauritius first among 47 countries in the Sub-Saharan Africa region and 25th globally. For the eleventh consecutive year, the World Bank’s 2019 Doing Business report ranks Mauritius first among African economies, and 20th worldwide, in terms of overall ease of doing business.
There is no formal ongoing dialogue with investors. However, one-to-one meetings are usually held with investors while the government prepares its annual budget.
Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment
A non-citizen can hold, purchase, or acquire real property under the Non-Citizens (Property Restriction) Act (NCPRA), subject to government approval. A foreigner can acquire residential property and apartments under the government-regulated Property Development Scheme (PDS) . The NCPRA was amended in December 2016 to allow foreigners to purchase certain types of properties, as long as the amount paid is over 6 million Mauritian rupees (approximately USD 172,000). A non-citizen is eligible for a residence permit upon the purchase of a house under the PDS if the investment made is more than USD 500,000. More information is available at .
Regarding business activities, the GoM generally does not discriminate between local and foreign investment. There are, however, some business activities where foreign involvement is restricted. These include television broadcasting, sugar production, newspaper or magazine publishing, and certain operations in the tourism sector.
In television broadcasting, the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) will not grant a license to a foreign company or to a company more than 20 percent-owned or controlled by foreign nationals. Similarly, a foreign investor cannot hold 20 percent or more of a company that owns or controls any newspaper or magazine, or any printing press publishing such publications. The IBA Act can be accessed via the following link: .
In the sugar sector, no foreign investor is allowed to make an investment that would result in 15 percent or more of the voting capital of a Mauritian sugar company being held by foreign investors. More information can be accessed via the following link: .
In the tourism sector, there are conditions on investment by non-citizens in the following activities: (i) guesthouse/tourist accommodation; (ii) pleasure craft; (iii) scuba diving; and (iv) tour operators. Generally, the limitations refer to a minimum investment amount, number of rooms, or a maximum equity participation, depending on the business activity. Details of the restrictions can be accessed via the following link: .
In the construction sector, foreign consultants or contractors are required to register with the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB). Details on registration procedures are available on the following link: .
The Investment Office of the EDB screens foreign investment proposals and provides a range of services to potential investors. The EDB is a useful resource for investors exploring business opportunities in Mauritius and provides assistance with occupation permits, licenses, and clearances by coordinating with relevant local authorities. In 2018, the U.S. Embassy in Port Louis did not receive negative comments from U.S. businesses regarding the fairness of the government’s investment screening mechanisms.
The Investment Office of the EDB reviews proposals for economic benefit, environmental impact, and national security concerns. EDB then advises the potential investor on specific permits or licenses required, depending on the nature of the business. Foreign investors can also apply through the EDB for necessary permits. In the event an investment fails review, the prospective investor may appeal the decision within the EDB or to the relevant government ministry.
Other Investment Policy Reviews
Mauritius’ most recent third party investment policy reviews through multilateral organizations were completed in 2014. In June 2014, the GoM conducted an investment policy review with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The review can be accessed via the following link: . The review concluded that, while policies and legislation in Mauritius support private sector development, incentive schemes tend to bias investment towards real estate and property development. In October 2014, the GoM also conducted a trade policy review with the World Trade Organization (WTO), which can be accessed via the following link: .
The GoM recognizes the importance of a good business environment to attract investment and achieve a higher growth rate. In 2017, the Business Facilitation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2017 entered into force. The main reforms brought about by this legislation were: expediting the process to start a business, streamlining procedures for issuing construction permits, facilitating property registration, improving the system for tax collection, and implementing a national e-licensing platform (a single window for application and processing of licenses and permits).
The incorporation of companies and registration of business activities falls under the provisions of and . All businesses must register with the Registrar of Companies. As a general rule, a company incorporated in Mauritius can be 100 percent foreign-owned with no minimum capital. According to the World Bank 2019 Doing Business report, while the procedures for registering a company takes one day, actually starting a business takes five days.
After the Registrar of Companies issues a certificate of incorporation, foreign-owned companies must register their business activities with the EDB. The company can then apply for occupation permits (work and residence permits) and incentives offered to investors. EDB’s investment facilitation services are available to all investors, domestic and foreign.
In partnership with the Corporate and Business Registration Department (a division of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development), the Mauritius Network Services (MNS) has implemented the Companies and Business Registration Integrated System, a web-based portal that allows electronic submission for incorporation of companies and application for the Business Registration Number, file statutory returns, pay yearly fees, register businesses, and search for business information. Applicants can register with MNS at the following link: In March 2019, the National Electronic Licensing System (NELS), which is co-financed by the European Union, was officially launched. NELS is a single point of entry for the processing of permits and licenses needed to start and operate a business. It can be accessed here: .
The GoM imposes no restrictions on capital outflows. Due to the small size of the Mauritian economy, the government encourages Mauritian entrepreneurs to invest overseas, particularly in Africa, to expand and grow their businesses. As part of its Africa Strategy, the government has established the Mauritius Africa Fund: a public company with USD 13.8 million capitalization to support Mauritian investment in Africa. Through the Fund, the government participates as an equity partner up to 10 percent of the seed capital invested by Mauritian investors in projects targeted towards Africa. The government has signed agreements with Senegal, Madagascar, and Ghana establishing and managing Special Economic Zones (SEZ) in these countries and has invited local and international firms to set up operations in the SEZs. In its 2018-2019 budget, the GoM announced that Mauritian companies collaborating with the Mauritius-Africa Fund for development of infrastructure in the SEZs will benefit from a five-year tax holiday. To further facilitate investment, Mauritius has also signed Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements and Double Taxation Avoidance Agreements with African states.
Since 2012, the Board of Investment (now restructured as the Investment Office of the EDB) has been operating an Africa Center of Excellence, a special office dedicated to facilitating investment from Mauritius into Africa. It acts as a repository of business information for Mauritian entrepreneurs about investment opportunities in different sectors in Africa.
In 2017, the most recent year for which the Central Bank of Mauritius has published data, gross direct investment flows abroad (excluding the global business sector) amounted to USD 72 million. The top three sectors for outward investment were finance and insurance activities (44 percent), manufacturing (24 percent) and real estate activities (23 percent). Investment abroad was mainly geared towards developing countries and Africa was the biggest recipient of foreign direct investment (FDI) amounting to USD 41 million. Kenya and France were the top two recipient countries with shares of 36 percent and 9 percent, respectively. Data on outward investment can be obtained here: .
2. Bilateral Investment Agreements and Taxation Treaties
In 2006, Mauritius and the United States signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) aimed at strengthening and expanding trade and investment ties between the two countries. The United States has not signed a bilateral investment treaty or a free trade agreement with Mauritius. Mauritius benefits from duty free and quota free access to the United States on approximately 6500 tariff lines through the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). This trade preference is valid until 2025 unless Mauritius graduates out of AGOA by rising above the law’s maximum per capita GDP level before then.
Mauritius has been a member of the World Trade Organization since 1995 and has signed trade agreements with several regional blocs and countries. These include the Common Market for Southern and Eastern Africa Free Trade Area (COMESA), the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC – only Madagascar offers trade preferences under the IOC), the interim Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union (EU), the Southern African Development Community Free Trade Area (SADC), a free trade agreement with Turkey, and a preferential trade agreement with Pakistan.
The Mauritian government and the People’s Republic of China completed negotiations for a free trade agreement in September 2018. The agreement has been signed by both countries but will not go into effect until ratified. In January 2018, the third round of discussions between Mauritius and India on the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CECPA) was launched. Mauritius also signed an agreement with the UK in January 2019 to safeguard trade preferences it currently enjoys under the interim Economic Partnership Agreement (iEPA) with the European Union. The new agreement, known as the UK-ESA EPA, will enter into force when the UK completes the process of exiting the European Union.
As of March 2018, Mauritius has signed Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements (IPPA) with 44 countries. The following 28 IPPAs have been ratified and are in force: Barbados, Belgium/Luxemburg Economic Union, Burundi, China, Czech Republic, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Kuwait, Madagascar, Mozambique, Pakistan, Portugal, Republic of Congo, Republic of Korea, Romania, Senegal, Singapore, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, Turkey, UK and Northern Ireland, and Zambia. The following 16 IPPAs have been signed but await ratification: Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Comoros, Cote D’Ivoire, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea Republic, Kenya, Mauritania, Nepal, Rwanda, Swaziland, Sao Tome and Principe, United Arab Emirates, and Zimbabwe. Updated information on IPPAs can be accessed via the following link: .
In 2013, Mauritius signed a Tax Information Exchange Agreement (TIEA) and an Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) with the United States to implement the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA). Procedures for FATCA reporting can be accessed via the following link: .
Mauritius has also signed TIEAs with Australia, Austria, Denmark, Faroe Island, Finland, Greenland, Guernsey, Iceland, Korea and Norway. TIEAs with Argentina, Greece, and Isle of Man await signature.
As of mid-2019, Mauritius has concluded Double Taxation Avoidance Treaties (DTATs) with 46 countries: Australia (partial), Bangladesh, Barbados, Belgium, Botswana, Cape Verde, China, Croatia, Cyprus, Egypt, France, Germany, Ghana, Guernsey, India, Italy, Jersey, Kuwait, Lesotho, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malaysia, Malta, Monaco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Rwanda, Republic of Congo, Senegal, Seychelles, Singapore, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Swaziland, Sweden, Thailand, Tunisia, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Five DTAT treaties await ratification: Gabon, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, and Russia, and fifty-four DTAT treaties await signature: Cote d’Ivoire, Estonia, Gibraltar, Malawi and Gambia. Updated information on TIEAs and DTATs can be accessed via the following link: .
Mauritius has adopted the OECD’s Standard for Automatic Exchange of Financial Account Information (Common Reporting Standard – CRS), which sets a global benchmark that participating countries will adhere to in a proactive fiscal-information world. The first reporting under this standard was undertaken in September 2018. Further information on the list of reportable jurisdictions for the CRS can be accessed via the following link: .
3. Legal Regime
Transparency of the Regulatory System
Since 2006, the GoM has reformed trade, investment, tariffs, and income tax regulations to simplify the framework for doing business. Trade licenses and many other bureaucratic hurdles have been reduced or abolished. With a well-developed legal and commercial infrastructure and a tradition that combines entrepreneurship and representative democracy, Mauritius is one of Africa’s most successful economies. Business Mauritius, the coordinating body of the Mauritian private sector, participates in discussions with and presents papers to government authorities on laws and regulations affecting the private sector.
Regulatory agencies do not request comments on proposed bills from the general public. Both the notice of the introduction of a government bill and a copy of the bill are distributed to every member of the Legislative Assembly and published in the Government Gazette before enactment. Bills with a “certificate of urgency” can be enacted with summary process. All proposed regulations are published on the Legislative Assembly’s website, which is publicly accessible via the following link: .
Companies in Mauritius are regulated by the Companies Act of 2001, which incorporates international best practices and promotes accountability, openness, and fairness. To combat corruption, money laundering and terrorist financing, the government also enacted the Prevention of Corruption Act, the Prevention of Terrorism Act, and the Financial Intelligence and Anti-Money Laundering Act. While Mauritius does not have a freedom of information act, members of the public may request information by contacting the permanent secretary of the relevant ministry.
Budget documents, including the executive budget proposal, enacted budget, and end-of-year report, are publicly available and provide a substantially full picture of Mauritius’ planned expenditures and revenue streams. Information on debt obligations is also available online: .
International Regulatory Considerations
Mauritius is a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA). It is a signatory to the Tripartite Free Trade Area and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), both of which remain under negotiation as of April 2019. The GoM implements its commitments to these regional economic institutions with domestic legal and regulatory adjustments, as appropriate.
Mauritius has been a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) since 1995. The GoM reports that they notify all draft technical regulations to the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade to the extent possible. In July 2014, Mauritius notified its category A commitments to the WTO, among the first African countries to do so. Mauritius was the fourth country to submit its instrument of acceptance for the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA). In 2019, Mauritius notified its category B and C commitments and their corresponding dates of implementation.
Of TFA’s 36 measures, Mauritius has classified 27 as category A, five as B, and four as C. Discussions with donors to obtain technical assistance to finance trade facilitation projects listed under category C are ongoing and, at the time of writing of the report, Mauritius had secured assistance from the World Bank and the World Customs Organization.
To coordinate efforts to implement the TFA, in 2015 Mauritius set up a National Committee on Trade Facilitation co-chaired by representatives from government and the private sector. Members include Customs, the Ministry of Agro-Industry and Food Security, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, and the Mauritius Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The Committee has met seven times since. Discussion topics include identification of sources of financing for category C commitments and resolution of non-tariff barriers in Mauritius.
Legal System and Judicial Independence
The Mauritian legal system is a unique mixture of traditions. Mauritius draws legal principles from both French civil law and British common law traditions; its procedures are largely derived from the English system, while its substance is based in the Napoleonic Code of 1804. Commercial and contractual law is also based on the civil code. However, some specialized areas of law are comparable to other jurisdictions. For example, its company law is practically identical to that of New Zealand. Mauritian courts often resolve legal disputes by drawing on current legislation, the local legal tradition, and by means of a comparative approach utilizing various legal systems. The highest court of appeal is the judicial committee of the Privy Council of England. Mauritius is a member of the International Court of Justice. Mauritius established a Commercial Court in 2009 to expedite the settlement of commercial disputes.
Contracts are legally enforceable and binding. Ownership of property is enforced with the registration of the title deed with the Registrar-General and payment of the registration duty. Mauritian courts have jurisdiction to hear intellectual property claims, both civil and criminal. The judiciary is independent and the domestic legal system is generally non-discriminatory and transparent.
Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment
The Economic Development Board Act of 2017 governs investment in Mauritius, while the Companies Act of 2001 contains the regulations governing incorporation of businesses. The Corporate and Business Registration Department (CBRD) of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development administers the Companies Act of 2001, the Business Registration Act of 2002, the Insolvency Act of 2009, the Limited Partnerships Act of 2011, and the Foundations Act of 2012. Information regarding the various acts can be accessed via the CBRD’s website: .
The Mauritian judiciary is independent and the legal system is generally non-discriminatory and transparent. The Embassy is not aware of any recent cases of government or other interference in the court system affecting foreign investors.
Competition and Anti-Trust Laws
The Competition Commission of Mauritius (CCM) is an independent statutory body established in 2009 to enforce Competition Act 2007. It is mandated to safeguard competition by preventing and remedying anticompetitive business practices in Mauritius. Anticompetitive business practices, also called restrictive business practices, may be in the form of cartels, abuse of monopoly situations, and mergers that lessen competition.
The institutional design of the Competition Commission houses both an adjudicative and an investigative organ under one body. While the Executive Director has power to investigate restrictive business practices (the Investigative Arm), the Commissioners determine the cases (the Adjudicative Arm) on the basis of reports from the Executive Director.
Since it began operations, the CCM has undertaken 46 investigations, of which 32 have been completed and 13 are ongoing as of mid-2019. The results of completed investigations are available on CCM’s website: .
Expropriation and Compensation
The Constitution includes a guarantee against nationalization. However, in 2015, the government passed the Insurance (Amendment) Act to enable the Financial Services Commission (FSC) to appoint “special administrators” in cases where there is evidence that the liabilities of an insurer and its related companies exceed assets by 1 billion rupees (approximately USD 28 million) and that such a situation “is likely to jeopardize the stability and soundness of the financial system of Mauritius.” The special administrators are empowered to seize and sell assets. The government enacted this law in the immediate aftermath of the financial scandal explained below.
In April 2015, the Bank of Mauritius, the central bank, revoked the banking license of Bramer Bank, the banking arm of Mauritian conglomerate British American Investment (BAI) Group, citing an inadequate capital reserve ratio. As a result, Bramer Bank entered receivership and by May 2015 the receiver had transferred the assets and liabilities of Bramer Bank to a newly created state-owned bank, the National Commercial Bank Ltd., thus effectively nationalizing Bramer Bank. In January 2016, the Mauritian government merged the National Commercial Bank Ltd. with another government-owned bank resulting in Maubank, a new bank dedicated mainly to servicing small- and medium-sized enterprises. Efforts to privatize the bank did not materialize in 2018 and, as of March 2019, the GoM owns over 99 percent of Maubank’s shares.
The government likewise took over much of Bramer’s parent, the BAI Group. The FSC placed the BAI Group in conservatorship, alleging fraud and corporate mismanagement in BAI’s insurance business. Following passage of the Insurance (Amendment) Act in 2015, the FSC created the National Insurance Company, which took over the BAI Group’s core insurance business, and the National Property Fund, which took over other BAI Group assets, including a hospital and several retail outlets. CIEL Healthcare, a local private company, bought the hospital in 2017.
In 2015, BAI’s former chairman filed a dispute against the GoM with the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL), alleging that the government illegally appropriated BAI’s assets. The former chairman, who is a Mauritian-French dual national, claimed that Mauritius had breached the Mauritius-France bilateral investment treaty and requested the restitution of his assets and payment of compensation. The tribunal concluded that it lacked jurisdiction over the dispute and ruled in favor of the GoM. The former chairman appealed the tribunal’s decision and the litigation continues.
ICSID Convention and New York Convention
Mauritius is a member of the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes and a signatory to the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards Act. Mauritius is also a member of the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency of the World Bank.
Investor-State Dispute Settlement
Mauritius does not have a bilateral investment treaty or free trade agreement with the United States. The Embassy is unaware of any investment dispute involving U.S. investors.
As explained above, the former chairman of BAI, a dual French-Mauritian national, filed a dispute against the government of Mauritius with UNCITRAL alleging that the government illegally appropriated BAI’s assets. The tribunal ruled in favor of the government.
In 2017, the Supreme Court rendered a judgment in a major unfair competition case lodged in 2005 by Emtel Ltd., a local telecommunications firm, against Mauritius Telecom, a parastatal entity, and the former regulator Telecommunications Authority. Emtel was engaged in a joint venture with U.S. majority-owned Millicom Enterprises, but Emtel bought all the shares of Millicom in 2014. The court awarded over USD 16 million in damages to Emtel.
A Malaysian power company, CT Power, is challenging the government’s decision to cancel a proposed energy project, which they had been negotiating with the previous government. The case remains in court.
Another dispute involves local company Betamax against the State Trading Corporation (STC) for breach of contract. In 2009, Betamax got a long-term contract with the previous government for the transportation of petroleum products from an oil refinery in India to Mauritius. The new government elected in 2014 tried at first to negotiate Betamax out of the transportation contract on the ground that the contract had been awarded unlawfully. After negotiations failed, the government decided to rescind the contract. Betamax took the case to the Singapore International Arbitration Center (SIAC). In 2017, SIAC decided in favor of Betamax and ordered the STC to pay approximately USD 133 million in damages to Betamax for breach of contract. STC then petitioned the Supreme Court of Mauritius to set aside the verdict, arguing that the Singapore tribunal lacked jurisdiction. The Supreme Court ruled in a provisional order that SIAC’s judgment could be enforced within 14 days. STC challenged the provisional order. As of mid-2019, the case is ongoing.
The Association des Hoteliers et Restaurateurs of Mauritius (AHRIM), which promotes the interests of hotels and restaurants in Mauritius, challenged the GoM’s issuance of an environmental impact assessment license to Growfish International Ltd, a company involved in aquaculture. AHRIM is concerned about the impact the fish farm can have on tourism and the marine environment. Growfish is a company incorporated in Mauritius and financed by investors from South Africa and Norway. On April 30, a tribunal ruled in favor of AHRIM.
International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts
In 2011, the GoM, the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA), and the Mauritius International Arbitration Center (MIAC) established a new arbitration center in Mauritius called the LCIA-MIAC Arbitration Center. LCIA-MIAC offered all services offered by the LCIA in the United Kingdom. In July 2018, the LCIA and GoM terminated the partnership, after which the MIAC began operating as an independent organization. The organization’s website has additional information: .
Additionally, the Mauritius Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s (MCCI) Arbitration and Mediation Center (MARC) was established in 1996 as an initiative of the MCCI to provide the business community with alternative forms of dispute resolution using internationally accepted arbitral and mediation standards. More information is available via the following link: .
Bankruptcy is not criminalized in Mauritius. The Insolvency Act of 2009 amended and consolidated the law relating to insolvency of individuals and companies and the distribution of assets in the case of insolvency and related matters. Most notably, the Act introduced administration procedures, providing creditors the option of a more orderly reorganization or restructuring of a business than in liquidation. A bankrupt individual is automatically discharged from bankruptcy three years after adjudication, but may apply to be discharged earlier. The Act draws on the Model Law on Cross-Border Insolvency adopted by the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law in 1997. The Act can be accessed here: . According to the World Bank’s 2019 Doing Business report, Mauritius ranks 35th out of 190 countries in terms of resolving insolvency.
6. Financial Sector
Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment
The GoM welcomes foreign portfolio investment. The Stock Exchange of Mauritius (SEM) was opened to foreign investors following the lifting of foreign exchange controls in 1994. Foreign investors do not need approval to trade shares, except for when doing so would result in their holding more than 15 percent in a sugar company, a rule detailed in the Securities (Investment by Foreign Investors) Rules 2013. Incentives to foreign investors include free repatriation of revenue from the sale of shares and exemption from tax on dividends and capital gains.
The SEM currently operates two markets: the Official Market and the Development and Enterprise Market (DEM). As of December 2018, the shares of 60 companies (local, global business and foreign companies) were listed on the Official Market, representing a market capitalization of USD 10.2 billion. Unique in Africa, the SEM can list, trade, and settle equity and debt products in U.S. dollars, Euros, Pounds Sterling, South African Rand, as well as Mauritian Rupees. A variety of new asset classes of securities such as global funds, depositary receipts, mineral companies, and specialist securities including exchange-traded funds and structured products have also been introduced on the SEM. The DEM was launched in 2006 and the shares of 43 companies are currently listed on this market with a market capitalization of USD 1.8 billion. Foreign investors accounted for 30 percent of trading volume on the exchange for the financial year 2017-2018. Standard & Poor’s, Morgan Stanley, Dow Jones, and FTSE have included the Mauritius stock market in a number of their stock indices. Since 2005, the SEM has been a member of the World Federation of Exchanges. The SEM is also a partner exchange of the Sustainable Stock Exchanges Initiative. In 2018, in line with its strategy to digitalize its investor services, SEM launched the mySEM mobile application.
The government respects IMF Article VIII by refraining from restrictions on payments and transfers for current international transactions. A variety of credit instruments is available to local and foreign investors through the banking system.
Money and Banking System
Mauritius has a sophisticated banking sector. As of March 2019, 20 banks are licensed to undertake banking business, of which five are local banks, nine are foreign-owned subsidiaries, one is a joint venture, four are branches of foreign banks, and one is licensed as a private bank. One bank conducts Islamic banking exclusively. Further details can be obtained on the following link: . According to data from the Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion, 90 percent of Mauritians aged 15 and above have a bank account.
According to the Banking Act of 2004, all banks are free to conduct business in all currencies. There are also eight non-bank deposit-taking institutions, as well as 12 moneychangers and foreign exchange dealers. There are no official government restrictions on foreigners opening bank accounts in Mauritius, but banks may require letters of reference or proof of residence for their due diligence. The Bank of Mauritius, the country’s central bank, carries out the supervision and regulation of banks as well as non-bank financial institutions authorized to accept deposits. The Bank of Mauritius has endorsed the Core Principles for Effective Banking Supervision as set out by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision.
The banking system is dominated by two long-established domestic entities: the Mauritius Commercial Bank (MCB) and the State Bank of Mauritius (SBM), which together constitute about 60 percent of the total domestic market. Maubank, the third largest bank in the country, became operational in 2016 following a merger between the Mauritius Post & Cooperative Bank and the National Commercial Bank. The Bank of China started operations in Mauritius in 2016. Other foreign banks present in Mauritius include HSBC, Barclays Bank, Bank of Baroda, Habib Bank, BCP Bank (Mauritius), Standard Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, State Bank of India, and Investec Bank. As of July 2018, commercial banks’ total assets amounted to USD 38.3 billion.
According to the Bank of Mauritius 2018 Annual Report, the domestic financial system in Mauritius remains resilient. Banks are profitable, liquid and well-capitalized. Asset quality of banks is good with low rates of non-performing loans. This was reflected in the non-performing loans to total loans ratio, which fell from 7.0 percent in June 2017 to 6.5 percent in June 2018. In July 2017, the Banking Act was amended to double the minimum capital requirement from 5.8 million to 11.2 million U.S. dollars. Banks must implement this provision by June 30, 2019. The Central Bank began reporting the liquidity coverage ratio in 2017 to improve the liquidity profile of banks and their ability to withstand potential liquidity disruptions.
Most major banks in Mauritius have correspondent banking relationships with large banks overseas. In recent years, according to industry experts, no banks have lost correspondent banking relationships and none report being in jeopardy of doing so as of April 2019. The 2018 Mutual Evaluation Report for Mauritius conducted by the Eastern and Southern Africa Anti-Money Laundering Group identified areas for improvement in the Central Bank’s AML/CFT supervisory and regulatory framework. These include: an improved AML/CFT risk-based framework; separation of prudential and AML/CFT supervisory frameworks; and improvements in legislation, enforcement, and administrative sanctions for breaches of AML/CFT compliance by licensees. The Central Bank reports that it has started the implementation of an action plan to address these issues: . In January 2019, the Central Bank signed a memorandum of cooperation with the Mauritius Police Force on financial crimes and illicit activities relating to the financial services sector.
In November 2017, the First Deputy Governor of the Bank of Mauritius announced that the bank had established internal and inter-bank committees on fintech and distributed ledger (blockchain) technologies. The committees are tasked with studying opportunities related to fintech and proposing an innovation-friendly regulatory framework.
In February 2018, the Fintech and Innovation-driven Financial Services (FIFS) Regulatory Committee held its first meeting at the Financial Services Commission (FSC – the regulator for the non-bank financial services sector) to assess the current regulatory set up with respect to FIFS Regulations in Mauritius, and to identify priority areas within the regulatory space of fintech activities. As announced in the 2018-2019 budget speech, a National Regulatory Sandbox License Committee has been set up to assess all fintech applications requiring a sandbox license. (A sandbox license offers an investor the possibility of conducting a business activity for which there exists no legal framework.) Effective March 2019, the Financial Services Commission permits businesses that provide custodial services for digital assets.
Foreign Exchange and Remittances
The government of Mauritius abolished foreign exchange controls in 1994. Consequently, no approval is required for converting, transferring, or repatriating profits, dividends, or capital gains earned by a foreign investor in Mauritius. Funds associated with any form of investment can be freely converted into any world currency.
The exchange rate is generally market-determined, though the Bank of Mauritius, the central bank, occasionally intervenes. Between January 2018 and December 2018, the Mauritian Rupee appreciated against the U.S. Dollar by 3.8 percent, but depreciated against the Pound Sterling and Euro by 3.1 percent and 5.0 percent respectively.
There are no time or quantity limits on remittance of capital, profits, dividends, and capital gains earned by a foreign investor in Mauritius. Mauritius has a well-developed and modern banking system. There is no legal parallel market in Mauritius for investment remittances. The Embassy is unaware of any proposed changes by the government to its investment remittance policies.
Sovereign Wealth Funds
The government of Mauritius does not have a Sovereign Wealth Fund.
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 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.
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 Ltd 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 government has no specific privatization program. In 2017, however, as part of its broader water reform efforts, the government agreed to a World Bank recommendation to appoint a private operator to maintain and operate the country’s potable water distribution system. Under the World Bank’s proposed public-private partnership, the Central Water Authority (CWA) would continue to own distribution and supply assets and will be responsible for business planning, setting tariffs, capital expenditure, and monitoring and enforcing the private operator’s performance. In March 2018, despite protest by trade unions and consumer associations, the Minister of Energy and Public Utilities reiterated his intention to engage by the end of the year a private operator as a strategic partner to take over the water distribution services of the CWA. To date, this has not materialized. The government says it plans to sell control of Maubank, into which it has injected about 173 million U.S. dollars following its decision to nationalize the bank in 2015.
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 reinforce the perception that corruption exists at the highest political levels, despite the fact that Mauritian law provides for criminal penalties for corruption by officials. A former prime minister was arrested in 2015 on allegations of money laundering while a minister of the current government had to step down in 2016 on 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.
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 have claimed that in February 2015 authorities held them against their will.
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 of ICAC is 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, requiring the accused to demonstrate a lawful source of questionable assets, as well as the application of the law retroactively for seven years.
Mauritius is the 54th least corrupt nation out of 175 countries, according to the 2017 Corruption Perceptions Index reported by Transparency International, down for the second consecutive year from 45th in 2015 and 50th in 2016. However, Mauritius retains its first rank in overall governance in Africa for the eleventh consecutive year, according to the 2017 Mo Ibrahim Index of African Governance.
Although Mauritius’ generally positive reputation for transparency and accountability has been hurt by some high-profile scandals, U.S. investors, in conversations with Embassy personnel, have not identified corruption as an obstacle to investment in the country.
Resources to Report Corruption
Independent Commission Against Corruption
Reduit Triangle, Moka, Mauritius
+230 402 6600
Contact at “watchdog” organization:
4th Floor, FonSing Building, 12 Edith Cavell Street, Port Louis, Mauritius
+ 230 213 0796
12. OPIC and Other Investment Insurance Programs
Mauritius is eligible for the full range of OPIC investment insurance programs, and OPIC currently has an investment incentive agreement with Mauritius. Mauritius is also a member of the World Bank’s Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency. Countries with significant government-financed investment in Mauritius include India, France, and China.
13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics
Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
|Direct Investment From/in Counterpart Economy Data (2017)|
|From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)|
|Inward Direct Investment||Outward Direct Investment|
|Total Inward||$333,281||100%||Total Outward||$268,454||100%|
|South Africa||$18,603||6%||South Africa||$7,754||3%|
|“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.|
Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
|Portfolio Investment Assets (June 2018)|
|Top Five Partners (Millions, US Dollars)|
|Total||Equity Securities||Total Debt Securities|
|All Countries||$141,198||100%||All Countries||$119,273||100%||All Countries||$21,925||100%|
|United Kingdom||$11,706||8%||Hong Kong||$3,315||3%||India||$5,414||25%|
|United States||$4,815||3%||Singapore||$3,273||3%||United States||$2,298||10%|
|Hong Kong||$3,490||2%||Cayman Islands||$2,993||3%||Luxembourg||$370||2%|
|Singapore||$3,420||2%||United States||$2,517||2%||South Africa||$308||1%|