Archive for the ‘Mauritius’ Category

Mauritius view of global issues

March 8, 2008

Mr. Nikhil Treebhoohun, now with the Commonwealth Secretariat we believe, is a very agreeable chap who was a keen participant in clustering initiatives when he was the CEO of the National Productivity & Competitiveness Council in Mauritius.

A few years back he wrote a very good thought piece based on his attendance at the World Cluster Congress in Paris. His take included the following.

  • The Congress was organised jointly by OECD and the French government and the assistance was quite impressive both in terms of the number attending (some 1,000) and the quality of the participants. The Congress was opened by the French minister for spatial planning and the environment, who stressed the need to take on board the social dimensions of development. One important element was her commitment to build alliances with countries of the Zone de Solidarité Prioritaire so as to ensure that developing countries are not further left behind by the movement towards globalisation.  
  • The case of local clusters is notable not just because of the economic benefits for the performance of firms but also because it draws our attention to the presence of a different entrepreneurial and local culture. 
  • This is based on a higher degree of inter-relation between economic and social ties.  The fact that enterprises are located together in the local territory helps to generate trust and a willingness to co-operate, which makes for a qualitative difference between networking locally and networking at a distance.
  • Secondly, there are trust relations among enterprises.  The case of transition countries shows how vital trust is to any form of coordination, which was often destroyed during years of undemocratic rule.
  • Thirdly, there is the notion of partnerships between private and public actors.
  • Fourthly, there is enhanced visibility of local actors and of the civil society. This is demonstrated for instance by the increased visibility of networks of women entrepreneurs at a local level.
  • Fifthly, stronger representations of collective local interests is important. This also involves closer links to the authorities.
  • Sixthly, agencies need to think about a new approach, where the actor is a group of enterprises, rather than an enterprise as an isolated economic actor.
  • Last, a new relationship between territorial proximity and the use of new technology is warranted. 

Some of the ideas and lessons that were discussed at the conference include:

  • The SPL (systèmes productifs locaux) is a concept being promoted by the French as their own variant of the Anglophone clusters and the Italians industrial district. The main difference between the cluster and SPL is that the French see SPL as encompassing social issues – i.e. the SPL are clusters aimed primarily at community development as a means to combat unemployment.
  • There was total consensus among all participants that there is no blueprint for cluster development.
  • Whereas at TCI Glasgow the general feeling was that a cluster could not be built from scratch, at least one dissenting voice was heard in Paris which mentioned how, starting from an idea to develop sport fishing, Chile ended with an aquaculture cluster employing 30,000.
  • France is going to help LDCs set up clusters.
  • Clusters are built on trust -managerial and knowledge resources are needed – clusters need to be embedded in the social and community model – clustering is a means for empowering local entrepreneurs – must move from firm to industry thinking – need for a local delivery mechanism and an anchor institution – information flows must be freely available and accessible e.g. US government has no copyright on information it produces.                                                             

Mauritius – from hungry and hopeless, to a success story

October 16, 2007

A recent IMF working paper (Etienne B. Yehoue) regarding a Brazilian footwear cluster also provided interesting insights on Mauritius. Paraphrasing follows.  

Why, given two countries with almost the same level of risk, does one attract clusters of foreign investment, while the other fails? Mauritius and Senegal are both former French colonies, which benefit from preferential arrangements with the EEC under the Lome conventions.

Both initially engaged in the same type of policy reforms and established export processing zones (EPZs). Both are poor but not landlocked. Senegal has a comparative advantage from its larger size, greater amount of arable land, and has a higher population.  Yet it was Mauritius that managed to attract considerable foreign investment, to become one of the few African countries with relatively high per capita income. It has transformed itself from a hungry, hopeless nation to one of the impressive success stories in the postcolonial era.

Senegal has not achieved this.  Some say that the geographical location of Mauritius is the key determinant of its success, but islands such as Seychelles or Comoros in the same region have not achieved Mauritius’s results.   

Mauritius (population less than 2 million) successfully moved from a mono-crop culture (sugar) to one diversified into manufactured exports and tourism. The agricultural sector now accounts for only 10% of GDP – manufacturing accounts for 29% and services for 61%. The success of the manufacturing sector has critically depended of the establishment of EPZs in 1970. Eleven EPZs were already in operation in Sub-Saharan Africa (e.g. Ghana, Liberia, Senegal and Togo) but have not been as successful as Mauritius.   

The answer didn’t lie in political instabilities, since Ghana and Senegal have been as politically stable. At the core of the Mauritius success was its government, which provided the support institutions and a dynamic entrepreneurial class. The trigger was the 20-fold surge in sugar prices from 1970 to 1974, which led to a record sugar production and a markedly improved balance of payments situation. This helped overall investment, and domestic entrepreneurs clustered their investment mostly in the textiles sector.

Combined with aggressive marketing of EPZs, it led to impressive FDI inflows. A campaign was launched to attract FDI from Europe and Southeast Asia. The Mauritius Export Development & Investment Authority promoted Mauritius as a base for complementary services or externalities necessary for the manufacturing industries.

Consequently, Mauritius’s GDP per capita (current prices) rose from US$270 in 1970 to US$3,640 in 1997.  To summarize, the interplay of government leadership (via incentives and institutions) and the dynamism of domestic entrepreneurs provided positive externalities for the clustering of foreign investment, which further stimulated FDI. This interplay seems to have not been present in many other African countries.

Mauritius – footwear

October 27, 2005

In 2003, having developed their Strategy and Action Plan, the Footwear Cluster in Mauritius sought the technical expertise and collaboration of the African Management Services Company.

While we are awaiting an update on progess, it is instructive to note that Hal Bosher, AMSCO Project Officer, told Footwear Cluster members then that AMSCO would delegate a foreign expert to the project. This was on cost-sharing basis for two years to assist enterprise technological improvement and also assist emerging clusters in training needs via their matching funds program. 

Mr. Bosher said that AMSCO would be more interested in asssiting clustered enterprises than individual ones because clusters provide the opportunity to involve more enterprises in improvement programs, hence speeding up industry restructuring.


Cluster involvement enables firms to jointly address common factors that affect both industry and firm competitiveness, namely material inputs and labour, and improvements in technology.  

The Productivity Implementation Committee on Clustering has identified printing, IT, language and environment as sectors for future projects.

There is scope for footwear associations, clusters or networks in other countries to form an alliance with the Mauritius folk. In this regard, Yorkshire (UK) was reportedly doing leading-edge work with the Mauritians  on digital printing.

Contact us for futher details.


gilt-edge advice (connectivity is the key)

March 17, 2005




Occasionally you come across a statement that is so brilliantly true that it deserves a gilt-edged frame.

“The key to success lies in connectivity. Innovation emerges when there are interconnections and interdependencies, where we work outside the parameters of what has been done before and seek out new possibilities. We all have the ability to connect one idea with another, to find an idea in a different organisation, in a different industry or field of activity and connect it with another to solve the problem at hand. Why can’t we be like a child with a bucket of Legos constantly combining and recombining ideas, images and thoughts into different combinations? Most great ideas, I am fully convinced, rarely come fully formed in a single bolt from the blue – they are combinations of ideas. We can all regain our lost creativity.”

– Hon. S. Fowdar, Minister for Training, Skills Development, Productivity & External Communications (at the Innovation Summit, Mauritius, September 2004. More info –

EU support for innovation

September 18, 2004


Nikhil Treeboohun of the National Productivity & Competitiveness Council (Mauritius) has alerted us to a new EC document: ‘Entrepreneurial innovation in Europe: a review of 11 studies of innovation policy and practice in today’s Europe’. Brussels: European Commission, 2003. ISBN: 9289444487

It summarises reports in the ongoing series of Innovation Policy Studies, to improve understanding of the innovation needs and behaviours of firms, research institutions and investors, to assess the impacts of existing policy measures, and to explore opportunities for further policy intervention.

The studies are designed to help regional, national and EU policymakers to strengthen Europe’s innovative capacity and competitiveness through the introduction of effective, well-targeted and mutually reinforcing legislation and support measures.


Regional Economic Development – a DIY process!

February 23, 2004

 The Australian Department of Transport & Regional Services commissioned a literature review by Spiller, Gibbins & Swan – worth a read, wherever you are. Excerpts below (our comments are in italics). 

§          Regional economic development is a ‘do-it-yourself’ process (you can say that again!).
§          Economic development occurs most prominently in cities, as cities provide a means for local interaction, supplier support and critical mass. Cities also house individuals who have ‘talent’ and ‘knowledge’, which are key drivers of regional competitiveness in the global economy. 
§          Trade, technology exchange & information sharing with other regions is also important. Trade forces competition/efficiency and supports the local learning/ innovation process. (Yes, and not forgetting that the bottom line is investment and quality firms).
§          Businesses must choose a ‘positioning strategy’. Regions are similar – ‘strategic architecture’ enables firms to be responsive and capture or create business opportunities. This architecture is unique combinations of physical infrastructure, technologies, core competencies and human capital that can be mobilised at short notice to take advantage of a business or trade opportunity.
§          Non-metropolitan regions can be supported by policies that lift business aspirations, develop strategic architecture, encourage import replacement and trade with leading cities, develop strong links to the large talent pools in cities. Also need to support a diversity of lifestyle and recreational opportunities, which capture the consumption spending trapped in metropolitan areas. (Noosa Qld. and south of France are good examples. A competitive advantage for places like Mauritius?).
§          A ‘top down’ strategic framework is necessary. It must address the long-term directions for Australian industry and regions, the roles and responsibilities of government & other economic agents. (Problematical where national and state governments are of different hues).
§          Within this ‘top down’ framework, regions must develop their own visions and strategic architecture, using a ‘bottom up’ approach and building on the region’s inherited assets – key businesses, universities, leaders, geography, climate, etc. (Often forgotten).
§          The need to match ‘top down’ and ‘bottom up’ agendas requires a coordinated delivery of regional business assistance between all levels of government. (Fantasy land – virtually impossible)
§          Regional development programs should address ‘market failures’, build on regions’ strengths and opportunities, and offer benefits to multiple parties.
§          Often need to conceptualise the economic drivers of a region using an industry cluster approach – tracing the supplier-buyer linkages (or value chains) within a region, often from the major regional exporters/ employers and working backwards. (We could not have said it better!)  


Mauritius – textiles & footwear

November 4, 2003

Text’île Innovation

One year after the visit of the SPL Lille – whose mission was to investigate the possibility of promoting clustering in Mauritius – the first Mauritian cluster, Text’île Innovation, was launched in October 2002.

This cluster comprises 17 enterprises in the textile sector – work force of 1,880. Its main objectives are: the diffusion of new products through a Creativity Unit to develop new collections; to reduce its overheads in the supply-chain through the setting up of a central clearing house at the free port, and to enhance the training of the employees through partnership with training institutions. Chairman of the cluster is Joseph Cateaux of Textile EMB Ltd. Secretary is Alexandrine Maigrot of Créacom Ltée.

The mail address of Text’île Innovation 14, Rue Arthur de Bissy, Floréal. Tel.: 251 3405 

Footwear Cluster

The NPCC has been conducting a series of working sessions with members of the Association of Footwear Manufacturers (AFM) to devise a strategy for the footwear industry. Using the proven ZOPP methodology, representatives from 18 enterprises brainstormed to identify the constraints and problems affecting the footwear industry in Mauritius.

With the assistance of the NPCC as facilitator, the participants developed a shared vision for the footwear industry, and defined a mission statement, set objectives and developed an action plan. Through the working sessions, the members of the AFM expressed the view that clustering is the structured framework for promoting cooperation and networking among operators of that industry. The Ministry of Industry has plans to develop a footwear village at Riche Terre.