Posted on Tuesday, 07 October 2014 13:59

Mauritius: Bruisers, Bankers and Business leaders

Paul Bérenger (1), Xavier-Luc Duval (2), Shalinee Valaydon (3)While the country's politicians have their eyes set on elections slated for 2015, its executives and athletes are looking further afield, to the rest of Africa and beyond.

For the past 50 years, four families have dominated Mauritian politics, with sons taking over from their fathers. Roshni Mooneeram, an academic, and her newly launched political party Ensam – which means "together" in Creole – want to change this. The domination of politics by a handful of families has led to complacency amongst politicians and citizens, Mooneeram says. She argues that Ensam will contribute to a healthier political culture that is more forward looking in order to build a much more prosperous and successful country.

Predicting election outcomes in Mauritius is not easy, as coalitions – often subject to change – are generally needed to win. Four main parties dominate the political field: the Labour Party, led by Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam; the Militant Social Movement (MSM), led by Pravind Jugnauth; the Mauritian Militant Movement (MMM), led since 1976 by Paul Bérenger (1), who became the country's first non-Hindu prime minister in 2003 and currently serves as the opposition leader in parliament; and the smaller Mauritian Social Democratic Party (MSDP), led by Xavier-Luc Duval (2).

Duval and the MSDP formed part of Ramgoolam's ruling alliance until he stepped down as finance minister in June after a dispute over proposed electoral and constitutional reforms. The MSDP says constitutional reform should be subject to a referendum.

Ramgoolam and Bérenger are busy negotiating a partnership for the next elections, which should take place before 5 May 2015. A winning coalition could bring Bérenger back into a senior government role. The Labour Party's Arvin Boolell, currently foreign affairs minister, might be a candidate for deputy prime minister. Jugnauth's legal troubles may also be over by the time elections are held, which could pave the way for a MSM comeback. The party quit the ruling alliance in 2011 due to corruption investigations into the 2010 purchase by the government of the MedPoint clinic for Rs144m ($4.7m). Jugnauth was finance minister at the time and his sister and brother-in-law were shareholders in the company. A court ruling on the case is expected in September.

With the economic policy unlikely to change drastically no matter who is in power, businesses are focusing their efforts on diversifying operations and expanding their footprints, particularly in Africa. While Mauritian companies are looking abroad, Ken Poonoosamy, managing director at the Board of Investment, wants to lure investors to the country and diversify the economy. Poonoosamy, who has been involved in marketing Mauritius as a global business hub since 2005, is promoting a range of sectors, including agriculture, seafood, logistics, renewable energy, manufacturing and film-making.

Dev Chamroo, chief executive of export promotion body Enterprise Mauritius, is on a charm offensive to find new markets. Given the small size of the economy, the aim is not to become an exporter to the world but to find the most attractive markets, with recent surveys covering Angola, Brazil, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Turkey, Egypt and Zambia.

Jean-Pierre Dalais, appointed executive director of the CIEL Group in January, is seeking investment opportunities in the Indian Ocean region. CIEL, one of the biggest conglomerates in Mauritius, bought a controlling stake in banking group BNI Madagascar in partnership with First Immo in June. CIEL's finance arm is probing investments in Kenya, while its textile business is targeting Bangladesh, China and India.

Mauritius's athletes have also been enjoying success overseas. Shalinee Valaydon (3) was crowned African weightlifting champion and Mauritian sportswoman of the year in 2013, while Fabrice Michel Bauluck, was named sportsman of the year for the second year in a row. Bauluck won the WAKO Kickboxing World Championship in the under-54kg category in October 2013. However, it was James Kennedy St Pierre who brought home the only medal from the Commonwealth Games this August. He won silver in the under-81kg boxing division. ●

Photos 1 & 3 © La Sentinelle Ltd
Photo  2 © All Rights Reserved

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