Discusses economic indicators, trade statistics, and countries’ dominance in the market. Links to State Department’s political & environmental content.
Mauritius, a small island nation with a population of 1.3 million people, has one of the most successful and competitive economies in Africa. The country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was $11.5 billion in 2021, while per capita GDP was $9,106. In July 2020, the World Bank classified Mauritius as a high-income country based on 2019 data; however, due to the impacts of COVID-19, Mauritius reverted to upper-middle income country status in July 2021. During the pandemic, the country experienced a 15 percent contraction in GDP, which fell from $14 billion in 2019 to $11 billion in 2020. With a slight rebound in tourism and an island-wide vaccination campaign, GDP increased marginally to $11.1 billion in 2021, which is 20 percent below the pre-pandemic level. Tourism, manufacturing, and retail were the hardest-hit sectors during the pandemic. Real GDP growth was estimated at 3.7 percent in 2021, and the World Bank forecasted that the economy would rebound with GDP growth of 5.8 percent in 2022, and 6 percent in 2023, before decelerating to 3.9 percent in 2024, in a global context of low growth, high inflation, and heightened geopolitical tensions.
According to several surveys and metrics, Mauritius is among the freest and most business-friendly countries in Africa. The 2022 Index of Economic Freedom, published by the Heritage Foundation, ranks Mauritius first in the Sub-Saharan Africa region among 47 countries and 30th globally. Mauritius also ranked first in Sub-Saharan Africa for the second consecutive year in the Global Innovation Index Report 2021, and 52nd over 132 countries.
The most important sectors of the Mauritian economy are textiles, tourism, financial and business services, information and communication technology, seafood processing, real estate development, energy, and education/training. Mauritius claims an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of 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. The Mauritian government aspires for the ocean economy to play a significant role in the country’s economic development and provides incentives for investment in new sectors such as aquaculture, maritime services, marine biotechnology, and oil and gas exploration, besides measures to consolidate traditional activities such as coastal tourism, fishing, seafood processing, and seaport activities. The Mauritian government has also announced plans to promote investments in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, renewable energy, and information and communication technology. Mauritius targets sourcing 60% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030, from a current 23.9%, and governmental strategies to further this objective include the implementation of utility scale renewable energy projects, facilitating the integration of renewable energies in new real estate projects, and promoting innovative energy projects. In the field of information and communication technology, besides opportunities in business process outsourcing and knowledge process outsourcing, new sectors such as cloud services, cybersecurity, digital health technologies, eCommerce, Internet of Things, and virtual and augmented reality also represents new commercial opportunities. Opportunities in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology sectors range from specialized treatment centers and clinics, vaccine and pharmaceutical product manufacturing, medical tourism, to clinical trials, and clinical research. Total bilateral trade between Mauritius and the United States was valued at $334 million in 2021. Mauritian exports to the United States totaled $256 million in 2021, which accounts for 9 percent of total Mauritian exports. The United States is currently the fourth-largest export market for Mauritius, behind South Africa, France, and the United Kingdom, which receive 14 percent, 13 percent and 10 percent of total Mauritian exports respectively. Mauritius’s main exports to the United States are textiles and apparel under the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA), as well as live primates, precious stones and jewelry, processed fish, sunglasses, and cane sugar. Mauritius imported $78 million (2.3 percent of the market share) in goods from the United States in 2021. Mauritius imports from the U.S. included liquefied butane and propane, vaccines and immunological products, medicines and medical instruments, electrical apparatus for sound and visual signaling, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) apparatus, forged or stamped articles of iron, almonds, and whiskies.
Mauritius’s main sources of imported goods in 2021 were China, India, the United Arab Emirates, South Africa, and France Mauritian exports are eligible for preferential access to markets of: (i) the South African Development Community (SADC); (ii) the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA); (iii) the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC – preferences to Madagascar only); (iv) Europe (under the EU-East Africa Interim Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA)); (v) the United States (under AGOA); (vi) Japan, Norway, Switzerland, the United States, and the Customs Union among Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP); (vii) Turkey under the Mauritius-Turkey Free Trade Agreement, and (viii) Pakistan under the Mauritius-Pakistan Preferential Trade Agreement. Additionally, a Mauritius-China free trade agreement went into effect in January 2021, and Mauritius and India signed the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, which went into effect in April 2021. Mauritius also ratified the agreement establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) in October 2019 and began trading under the agreement in January 2021. The UK-Eastern Southern Africa (ESA) EPA also entered into force in January 2021 after the Brexit transitional period ended. This EPA, which Mauritius, Seychelles, and Zimbabwe signed in January 2019, is a continuity agreement based on the EU-ESA interim Economic Partnership Agreement (iEPA), which aims to safeguard the trade preferences that Mauritius benefited from under the iEPA with the European Union. Negotiations for a preferential trade agreement with Indonesia were ongoing.
Political & Economic 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. The most recent elections took place without incident. The current prime minister, Pravind Jugnauth, was appointed in 2017, after his father resigned for health reasons. Jugnauth’s political alliance won the reelection during the 2019 elections with a consortium of other political parties, and he became the country’s prime minister. In August 2020 and February 2021, civilians engaged in mass protests in response to allegations of corruption and mismanagement within the government. The protests were orderly and without incident. In April 2022, civilians participated in anti-government and anti-police demonstrations in various neighborhoods around the island due to price-hikes to gasoline and cooking gas. Sixteen police officers and two civilians were injured during the protests.
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.
For background information on the political and economic environment of the country, please click on the link to the U.S. Department of State Countries & Areas website.
State Department’s website for background on the country’s political environment.