Nation at a Glance - Mauritius

History

Although known to Arab and Malay sailors as early as the 10th century, Mauritius was first explored by the Portuguese in the 16th century and subsequently settled by the Dutch - who named it in honor of Prince Maurits van NASSAU - in the 17th century. The French assumed control in 1715, developing the island into an important naval base overseeing Indian Ocean trade, and establishing a plantation economy of sugar cane. The British captured the island in 1810, during the Napoleonic Wars. Mauritius remained a strategically important British naval base, and later an air station, playing an important role during World War II for anti-submarine and convoy operations, as well as the collection of signals intelligence. Independence from the UK was attained in 1968. A stable democracy with regular free elections and a positive human rights record, the country has attracted considerable foreign investment and has one of Africa's highest per capita incomes.

Location: Southern Africa, island in the Indian Ocean, about 800 km (500 mi) east of Madagascar

Border Countries: 0 km

Total Area: 2,040 sq km Land: 2,030 sq km Water: 10 sq km

Climate: Tropical, modified by southeast trade winds; warm, dry winter (May to November); hot, wet, humid summer (November to May)

Terrain: Small coastal plain rising to discontinuous mountains encircling central plateau

Natural resources: Arable land, fish

Land use: Agricultural land: 43.8% arable land 38.4%; permanent crops 2%; permanent pasture 3.4%Forest: 17.3% Other: 38.9% (2011 est.)

Ethnic groups: Indo-Mauritian 68%, Creole 27%, Sino-Mauritian 3%, Franco-Mauritian 2%

Languages: Creole 86.5%, Bhojpuri 5.3%, French 4.1%, two languages 1.4%, Other 2.6% (includes English, the official language, which is spoken by less than 1% of the population), Unspecified 0.1% (2011 est.)

Religions: Hindu 48.5%, Roman Catholic 26.3%, Muslim 17.3%, other Christian 6.4%, Other 0.6%, None 0.7%, Unspecified 0.1% (2011 est.)

Population: 1,348,242 (July 2016 est.)

Literacy: 90.6%; Male: 92.9%; Female: 88.5% (2015 est.)

Administrative divisions: 9 districts and 3 dependencies*; Agalega Islands*, Black River, Cargados Carajos Shoals*, Flacq, Grand Port, Moka, Pamplemousses, Plaines Wilhems, Port Louis, Riviere du Rempart, Rodrigues*, Savanne

Economy: Since independence in 1968, Mauritius has undergone a remarkable economic transformation from a low-income, agriculturally-based economy to a diversified, upper middle-income economy with growing industrial, financial, and tourist sectors. Mauritius has achieved steady growth over the last several decades, resulting in more equitable income distribution, increased life expectancy, lowered infant mortality, and a much-improved infrastructure. The economy currently depends on sugar, tourism, textiles and apparel, and financial services, but is expanding into fish processing, information and communications technology, education, and hospitality and property development. Sugarcane is grown on about 90% of the cultivated land area but sugar makes up only around 3-4% of national GDP. Authorities plan to emphasize services and innovation in the coming years. After several years of slow growth, government policies now seek to stimulate economic growth in five areas: serving as a gateway for international 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. Mauritius has attracted more than 32,000 offshore entities, many aimed at commerce in India, South Africa, and China. The Mauritius International Financial Center is under scrutiny by international bodies promoting fair tax competition and Mauritius has been cooperating with the European Union and the United states in the automatic exchange of account information. Mauritius is also a member of the OECD/G20’s Inclusive Framework on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting and is under pressure to review its Double Taxation Avoidance Agreements. The offshore sector is vulnerable to changes in the tax framework and authorities have been working on a Financial Services Sector Blueprint to enable Mauritius to transition to a jurisdiction of higher value added. Mauritius’ textile sector has taken advantage of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, a preferential trade program that allows duty free access to the US market, with Mauritian exports to the US growing by 35.6 % from 2000 to 2014. However, lack of local labor as well as rising labor costs eroding the competitiveness of textile firms in Mauritius. Mauritius' sound economic policies and prudent banking practices helped mitigate negative effects of the global financial crisis in 2008-09. GDP grew in the 3-4% per year range in 2010-17, and the country continues to expand its trade and investment outreach around the globe. Growth in the US and Europe fostered goods and services exports, including tourism, while lower oil prices kept inflation low. Mauritius continues to rank as one of the most business-friendly environments on the continent and passed a Business Facilitation Act to improve competitiveness and long-term growth prospects. A new National Economic Development Board was set up in 2017-2018 to spearhead efforts to promote exports and attract inward investment.

Agriculture - products: Sugarcane, tea, corn, potatoes, bananas, pulses; cattle, goats; fish

Industries: Food processing (largely sugar milling), textiles, clothing, mining, chemicals, metal products, transport equipment, nonelectrical machinery, tourism

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