Area: 1,865 sq. km. (720 sq. mi.), about the
size of Rhode Island; 500 miles east of
Madagascar, in the Indian Ocean.
Dependencies: Rodrigues Island, the Agalega
Islands and Cargados Carajos Shoals; Mauritius
also claims sovereignty over the Chagos
Archipelago, part of the British Indian Ocean
Territory, where U.S. Naval Support Facility at
Diego Garcia is located.
Louis (pop. 146,319). Other
cities--Beau Bassin and Rose Hill (105,377),
Vacoas-Phoenix (101,789), Curepipe (82,756),
Quatre Bornes (77,145).
Terrain: Volcanic island surrounded by coral
reefs. A central plateau is rimmed by mountains.
Climate: Tropical; cyclone season
Population (2008): 1,274,189, including
Rodrigues, Agalega, and St. Brandon. Density--612/sq.
Avg. annual population growth (2008): 0.8%.
Ethnic groups: Indo-Mauritians 68%, Creoles 27%,
Sino-Mauritians 3%, Franco-Mauritians 2%.
Religions: Hindu 48%, Roman Catholic 23.6%,
Muslim 16.6%, other Christian 8.6%, other 2.5%.
Languages: Creole (common), French, English
(official), Hindi, Urdu, Hakka, Bhojpuri.
compulsory--11 (primary school). Attendance (primary
school)--virtually universal. Literacy--adult
population 85%; school population 90%.
Health (2008): Infant
mortality rate--12.56/1000. Life
expectancy--male 70.28 yrs., female 77.4
Work force (2005, 543,900): Manufacturing--19.8%; construction--9.7%; trade
and tourism--22.3%; government
and fishing--9.6%; other--31.7%.
Independence: March 12, 1968 (became a republic
Constitution: March 12, 1968.
(head of state), prime minister (head of
government), Council of Ministers. Legislative--unicameral
National Assembly. Judicial--Supreme
Administrative subdivisions: 10.
Major political parties: MSM (Militant Socialist
Movement), MMM (Mauritian Militant Movement) and
the Social Alliance (made up of several parties,
including the Mauritian Labor Party).
Suffrage: Universal over 18.
Defense (2006): 1.7% of GDP.
GDP (2007, official exchange rate) $6.959
Real growth rate (2007): 4.6%.
Per capita income (2007, purchasing power
Avg. inflation rate (2007): 8.8%.
Natural resources: None.
Agriculture (4.8% of GDP): Products--sugar,
sugar derivatives, tea, tobacco, vegetables,
fruits, flowers and fishing.
Manufacturing, including export processing zone
(20% of GDP): Types--labor-intensive
goods for export, including textiles and
clothing, watches and clocks, jewelry, optical
goods, toys and games, and cut flowers.
Tourism sector (8.5% of GDP): Main
countries of origin--France, including
nearby French island Reunion, South Africa, and
west European countries.
Financial services: 10.3% of GDP.
Trade (2007): Exports--$2.218
billion: textiles and clothing, sugar, canned
tuna, watches and clocks, jewelry, optical
goods, toys and games, and flowers. Major
markets--Europe and the U.S. Imports--$3.628
billion: meat, dairy products, fish, wheat,
rice, wheat flour, vegetable oil, petroleum
products, iron and steel, cement, fertilizers,
machinery and transport equipment, and textile
industry raw materials. Major
suppliers--South Africa, France, China,
India, Bahrain, Finland, U.K., Japan, Australia,
Fiscal year: July 1-June 30.
While Arab and Malay sailors knew of Mauritius
as early as the 10th century AD and Portuguese
sailors first visited in the 16th century, the
island was first colonized in 1638 by the Dutch.
Mauritius was populated over the next few
centuries by waves of traders, planters and
their slaves, indentured laborers, merchants,
and artisans. The island was named in honor of
Prince Maurice of Nassau by the Dutch, who
abandoned the colony in 1710.
The French claimed Mauritius in 1715 and renamed
it Ile de France. It became a prosperous colony
under the French East India Company. The French
Government took control in 1767, and the island
served as a naval and privateer base during the
Napoleonic wars. In 1810, Mauritius was captured
by the British, whose possession of the island
was confirmed 4 years later by the Treaty of
Paris. French institutions, including the
Napoleonic code of law, were maintained. The
French language is still used more widely than
Mauritian Creoles trace their origins to the
plantation owners and slaves who were brought to
work the sugar fields. Indo-Mauritians are
descended from Indian immigrants who arrived in
the 19th century to work as indentured laborers
after slavery was abolished in 1835. Included in
the Indo-Mauritian community are Muslims (about
17% of the population) from the Indian
Franco-Mauritians control nearly all of the
large sugar estates and are active in business
and banking. As the Indian population became
numerically dominant and the voting franchise
was extended, political power shifted from the
Franco-Mauritians and their Creole allies to the
Elections in 1947 for the newly created
Legislative Assembly marked Mauritius' first
steps toward self-rule. An independence campaign
gained momentum after 1961, when the British
agreed to permit additional self-government and
eventual independence. A coalition composed of
the Mauritian Labor Party (MLP), the Muslim
Committee of Action (CAM), and the Independent
Forward Bloc (IFB)--a traditionalist Hindu
party--won a majority in the 1967 Legislative
Assembly election, despite opposition from
Franco-Mauritian and Creole supporters of Gaetan
Duval's Mauritian Social Democratic Party (PMSD).
The contest was interpreted locally as a
referendum on independence. Sir Seewoosagur
Ramgoolam, MLP leader and chief minister in the
colonial government, became the first prime
minister at independence, on March 12, 1968.
This event was preceded by a period of communal
strife, brought under control with assistance
from British troops.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
Mauritian politics are vibrant and characterized
by coalition and alliance building. All parties
are centrist and reflect a national consensus
that supports democratic politics and a
relatively open economy with a strong private
sector. Parliamentary elections were held July
Alone or in coalition, the Mauritian Labor Party
(MLP) ruled from 1947 through 1982 and returned
to power in 1995. The Mauritian Militant
Movement/Mauritian Socialist Party (MMM/PSM)
alliance won the 1982 election. In 1983,
defectors from the MMM joined with the PSM to
form the Militant Socialist Movement (MSM) and
won a working majority. In July 1990, the MSM
realigned with the MMM, and in September 1991,
national elections won 59 of the 62 directly
elected seats in parliament. In December 1995,
the MLP returned to power, this time in
coalition with the MMM. Labor's Navinchandra
Ramgoolam, son of the country's first prime
minister, became prime minister himself.
Ramgoolam dismissed his MMM coalition partners
in mid-1997, leaving Labor in power except for
several small parties allied with it. Elections
in September 2000 saw the re-emergence of the
MSM-MMM as a winning alliance, as the coalition
garnered 51.7% of the vote, and Sir Anerood
Jugnauth once again became the prime minister
with the caveat that mid-term, the leader of the
MMM party would take over as prime minister. In
September 2003, in keeping with the campaign
promise which forged the coalition, Jugnauth
stepped down from office and deputy prime
minister Paul Raymond Berenger became prime
minister. One month later, Sir Anerood Jugnauth
was sworn in as President of the Republic.
Berenger became the first Catholic,
Franco-Mauritian to head the government. The
move created an historic precedent of having a
non-Hindu, non-majority member head the national
government. The 2005 parliamentary elections
returned Navinchandra Ramgoolam to office as
Mauritius became a republic on March 12, 1992.
The most immediate result was that a
Mauritian-born president became head of state,
replacing Queen Elizabeth II. Under the amended
constitution, political power remained with
parliament. The Council of Ministers (cabinet),
responsible for the direction and control of the
government, consists of the prime minister (head
of government), the leader of the majority party
in the legislature, and about 20 ministries.
The unicameral National Assembly has up to 70
deputies. Sixty-two are elected by universal
suffrage, and as many as eight "best losers" are
chosen from the runners-up by the Electoral
Supervisory Commission using a formula designed
to give at least minimal representation to all
ethnic communities and under-represented
parties. Elections are scheduled at least every
Mauritian law is an amalgam of French and
British legal traditions. The Supreme Court--a
chief justice and five other judges--is the
highest judicial authority. There is an
additional right of appeal to the Queen's Privy
Council. Local government has nine
administrative divisions, with municipal and
town councils in urban areas and district and
village councils in rural areas. The island of
Rodrigues forms the country's 10th
Principal Government Officials
President--Sir Anerood Jugnauth
Vice President--Raouf Bundhun
Prime Minister--Navinchandra Ramgoolam
Ambassador to the United States--Keertee Coomar
Ambassador to the United Nations--Somduth
Mauritius maintains an embassy at 4301
Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008,
Mauritius has one of the most successful and
competitive economies in Africa; 2007 GDP at
market prices was estimated at $6.959 billion
(official exchange rate) and per capita income
at $11,200 (purchasing power parity), one of the
highest in Africa. The economy is based on
tourism, textiles, sugar, and financial
services. In recent years, information and
communication technology (ICT) and seafood have
emerged as important sectors of the economy,
growing by an average of 40% last year. Over the
past two decades, real output growth averaged
just below 6% per year, leading to a more than
doubling of per capita income and a marked
improvement in social indicators. However, since
2002, the economy started to face some serious
challenges as a result of globalization,
involving the erosion of trade preferences for
both textiles and sugar, two pillars of the
economy. Economic growth declined to 3-4% while
unemployment, government budget deficit, and
public debt increased steadily.
The government that took office in July 2005
embarked on a bold economic reform program aimed
at moving Mauritius from reliance on trade
preferences to global competitiveness. The
reform strategy, outlined in the FY 2006-2007
government budget, was designed not only to
remedy fiscal weaknesses but also to open up the
economy, facilitate business, improve the
investment climate, and mobilize foreign direct
investment and expertise. The reforms and the
opening up of the economy have already started
to positively impact the economy.
In addition to encouraging the restructuring and
modernization of the textile and sugar sectors,
the government is putting much emphasis on the
development of the ICT sector and the promotion
of Mauritius as a seafood hub in the region,
using existing logistics and distribution
facilities at the Freeport (free trade zone at
the port and airport). To further diversify the
economic base and generate sustainable growth,
the government is actively encouraging the
following economic activities: (i) the
land-based oceanic industry, (ii) hospitality
and property development, (iii) healthcare and
biomedical industry, (iv) agro-processing and
biotechnology, and (v) the knowledge industry.
The business climate is friendly yet extremely
competitive. The World Bank 2007 Doing Business
Survey ranks Mauritius 32nd in the world and
second in Africa for ease of doing business.
Mauritius has a long tradition of private
entrepreneurship, which has led to a strong and
dynamic private sector. Firms entering the
market will find a well-developed legal and
commercial infrastructure. With regard to
telecommunications, Mauritius has a
well-developed digital infrastructure and offers
state-of-the-art telecommunications facilities
including international leased lines and high
speed Internet access. Telecommunications
services were liberalized in January 2003. The
government policy is to act as a facilitator to
business, leaving production to the private
sector. However, it still controls key utility
services directly or through parastatals,
including electricity, water, waste water,
postal services, and broadcasting. The State
Trading Corporation controls imports of rice,
flour, petroleum products, and cement.
Mauritius has strong and friendly relations with
the West as well as with India and the countries
of southern and eastern Africa. It is a member
of the African Union (AU), World Trade
Organization (WTO), the Commonwealth, La
Francophonie, the Southern Africa Development
Community (SADC), the Indian Ocean Commission,
Community of Eastern and South African States
(COMESA), and the recently formed Indian Ocean
Rim Association. In 2004, then-Prime Minister
Berenger became chairman of SADC for a one-year
Trade, commitment to democracy, colonial and
cultural ties, and the country's small size are
driving forces behind Mauritian foreign policy.
The country's political heritage and dependence
on Western markets have led to close ties with
the European Union and its member states,
particularly the United Kingdom and France,
which exercises sovereignty over neighboring
Considered part of Africa geographically,
Mauritius has friendly relations with other
African states in the region, particularly South
Africa, by far its largest continental trading
partner. Mauritian investors are gradually
entering African markets, notably Madagascar and
Mozambique. Mauritius coordinates much of its
foreign policy with the Southern Africa
Development Community and the African Union.
Relations with India are strong for both
historical and commercial reasons. Foreign
embassies in Mauritius include Australia, the
United Kingdom, China, Egypt, France, India,
Madagascar, Pakistan, Russia, South Africa, and
the United States.
Mauritius does not have a standing army. All
military, police, and security functions are
carried out by 10,000 active-duty personnel
under the command of the Commissioner of Police.
The 8,000-member National Police is responsible
for domestic law enforcement. The 1,400-member
Special Mobile Force (SMF) and the 688-member
National Coast Guard are the only two
paramilitary units in Mauritius. Both units are
composed of police officers on lengthy rotations
to those services.
The SMF is organized as a ground infantry unit
and engages extensively in civic works projects.
The Coast Guard has four patrol craft for
search-and-rescue missions and surveillance of
territorial waters. A 100-member police
helicopter squadron assists in search-and-rescue
operations. There also is a special supporting
unit of 270 members trained in riot control.
Military advisers from the United Kingdom and
India work with the SMF, the Coast Guard, and
the Police Helicopter Unit, and Mauritian police
officers are trained in the United Kingdom,
India, and France. The United States provides
training to Mauritian security officers in such
fields as counter-terrorism methods, seamanship,
and maritime law enforcement.
Official U.S. representation in Mauritius dates
from the end of the 18th century. An American
consulate established in 1794 closed in 1911. It
was reopened in 1967 and elevated to embassy
status upon the country's independence in 1968.
Since 1970, the mission has been directed by a
resident U.S. ambassador.
Relations between the United States and
Mauritius are cordial and largely revolve around
trade. The United States is Mauritius'
third-largest market but ranks 12th in terms of
exports to Mauritius. Principal imports from the
U.S. include aircraft parts (for Air Mauritius),
automatic data processing machines, diamonds,
jewelry, radio/TV transmission apparatus,
and equipment, casino slot machines, outboard
motors, books and encyclopedias, and industrial
Mauritian exports to the U.S. include apparel,
sugar, non-industrial diamonds, jewelry
articles, live animals, sunglasses, rum, and cut
flowers. Mauritian products that meet the rules
of origin are eligible for duty- and quota-free
entry in the U.S. market under the African
Growth and Opportunity Act. In September 2006,
the Governments of Mauritius and the United
States signed a Trade and Investment Framework
Agreement to remove impediments and further
enhance trade and investment relations between
the two countries.
More than 200 U.S. companies are represented in
Mauritius. About 30 have offices in Mauritius,
serving the domestic and/or the regional market,
mainly in the information technology (IT),
textile, fast food, express courier, and
financial services sectors. The largest U.S.
subsidiaries are Caltex Oil Mauritius and Esso
Mauritius. U.S. brands are sold widely. Several
U.S. franchises, notably Kentucky Fried Chicken,
Pizza Hut, and McDonald's have been operating
for a number of years in Mauritius.
The United States funds a small military
assistance program. The embassy also manages
special self-help funds for community groups and
nongovernmental organizations and a democracy
and human rights fund.
Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Deputy Chief of Mission--Virginia Blaser
Management Officer--Tim Bashor
Public Affairs Officer--Craig White
Consular Officer--Jason Hackworth
Regional Security Officer--Kevin Helm
The address of the U.S.
Mauritius is Rogers House, Fourth Floor, John F.
Kennedy Street, Port Louis (tel: 230-202-4400;
fax: 230-208-9534; E-mail: email@example.com).