Mauritius Board of Investment: Mauritius: The Island of Opportunity - Raju Jaddoo

Mauritius is well established as a leading tourist destination, but this well-networked island is also a major investment location, especially for IT -enabled and BPO services. Raju Jaddoo, MD of the Board of Investment and board member of the COMESA Regional Investment Agency, tells CEO about the potential of this growing industry.

Located in the Indian Ocean, the island of Mauritius is as multifaceted as its culturally diverse people. A global sugar and textiles exporter, and with a world-class hospitality industry, Mauritius is also a prime business location.

The ability to reinvent itself during business cycles has been key to its economic success. The capacity to transform itself from a preference-driven economy to an open, diversified platform is particularly remarkable and a clear sign of the country’s economic resilience.

The country is now moving towards a first world island state. Leading global consultancy firms such as Gartner have identified Mauritius as an up-and coming global BPO destination, placing the island ahead of Senegal, Morocco and China in terms of political stability, cultural compatibility, quality of infrastructure and government support.

Outsourcing industry

The rapid and sustained evolution of Mauritius’ outsourcing industry has seen the country join the economic mainstream and expand into a range of activities.

Since 2004, the island's IT-enabled and BPO service sectors have witnessed an average growth rate of 30-35%, generating wide-scale social and economic benefits for the country. This growth has been accompanied with the consolidation of business processes and the whole sector is demonstrating a strong growth potential.

Part of Mauritius’ value revolves around its hospitality, geopolitical stability and cultural fit. The country also provides a nurturing environment for a range of services, from software and content development to call centres and help desk activities; and from business and knowledge process outsourcing to shared services and IT consulting.

With an educated and bilingual workforce (speaking English and French), state-of-the art infrastructure and business-friendly environment, a number of multinationals, such as Orange and DHL, have already integrated Mauritius into their global outsourcing strategies.

By virtue of its cultural and geographical proximity with both Asia and Africa, Mauritius is well positioned to capture business opportunities generated from these emerging markets. In this area, Mauritius has the additional advantage of a well regulated and competitive international financial services jurisdiction, which allows for tax-efficient investments in Africa and Asia.

The right business environment

In 2006, measures were introduced to radically change the country’s business landscape. Government policies have been reviewed to create a climate more conducive to attracting foreign direct investment (FDI).

Business registration for a service company is done within three days. The Occupation Permit, which combines the permits to work and live in Mauritius, is also delivered within three days.

These measures have been instrumental in promoting Mauritius as a regional centre of excellence and attracting foreign investors. Corporate tax, which stands at 15%, is one of the lowest among developing nations, allowing foreign investors to operate within a modern and secure regulatory framework.

Mauritius has also signed Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements with several countries. With investment opportunities in several areas, including information communication technologies (ICT), FDI into the country has increased four-fold since 2006. The government’s vision is to make ICT the fifth pillar of the economy, after sugar, tourism, manufacturing and financial services.

The legal framework governing ICT has been developed in accordance with international norms and best practices. A Copyright Act, a Cybercrime and Computer Misuse Act and an Electronic Transaction Act are currently in force. These, along with the recent promulgation of the Data Protection Act, illustrate the government’s commitment to enhancing the credibility of the Mauritian outsourcing industry.

Amendments are being made in view of making the acts EU compliant. The island also has an elaborate fibre optic network for both telephony and data services. Mauritius is connected to the SAFE cable, which links to southern Europe, West and South Africa, and South East Asia. Another fibre optic cable, SEACOM, will connect Mauritius to Asia and Europe by 2010, providing increased redundancy.

A training school geared to the specific needs of the BPO sector is due to open this year, in addition to the country’s two public universities and many private training and education institutions.

‘A careful crafting of the country’s positioning in the traditional European markets has resulted in Mauritius becoming a modern and cost competitive investment destination for the provision of IT-enabled and BPO services, despite the slowing down of Western economies in the aftermath of the credit crunch,’ says Raju Jaddoo, managing director of the Board of Investment and board member of the COMESA Regional Investment Agency.

Innovation is also high on the agenda. Developments are under way with the land-based Oceanic Park, which will come into operation in 2010. The park will provide a renewable source of energy for the development of sustainable and ‘green’ data hosting and business continuity centres.

Scope to grow, space to live

Mauritius also demonstrates unity in diversity. As a safe, modern and pleasant country, foreigners from across the world find it easy to adapt to their new lives. ‘While the journey has just started, it is with anticipation that the BOI team looks forward to a renewed dynamism as the country grows closer to its vision of an attractive, modern, inclusive, green and open Mauritius,’ says Jaddoo.

Raju Jaddoo, MD of the Board of Investment.