Mauritius launched an industry ‘Observatory’ last month. The facility will track significant business trends around the globe and provide information to enable businesses to make informed decisions about their activities. Butnot everyone has welcomed the development.
Launching the Industry Observatory in Port Louis a few weeks back, Industry, Commerce and Consumer Protection Minister Cader Sayed-Hossen said, “Knowledge, particularly of the global economy, on what’s happening in our export markets and in markets from where we source our raw materials, amongst others, is the most important element in business and the economic development of a country,”
He explained that this was a platform that can support businesses in decision making.The facility is the first of its kind in Mauritius: it acts as a one-stop shop for timely and relevant business information to the business community and policy makers, who have time constraints, to access up to date and pertinent information, usually dispersed in complex formats.
“The objective is to bridge this information gap by scanning the domestic, regional and global business and economic environment for information dissemination to business operators, policy makers, academia and the public at large,” said the Minister.
“The Observatory will serve as a key tool to connect business operators with the economic world to enable them to better grasp the issues at stake on the regional and global scene,” he emphasised. In Mauritius, as elsewhere in Africa, entrepreneurs face huge challenges when starting a business, due to lack of information on procedures and the relevant clearances required. Even more critically, knowledge of foreign markets is difficult to come by.
“The business community can make use of this facility, for example, to penetrate untapped markets, such as Russia, that present a huge potential,” Sayed-Hossen said.
The information and data available at the Observatory relates to market trends, trade flows, the profiles of competitors and trade agreements. The information is filed under nine themes to ease access and retrieval by users: Economy Watch, Starting and Expanding a Business, Market intelligence, Agreements, Sustainable Development, Global Competitiveness, Industrial Statistics E-book, Trade Flows and Sectoral Briefs. Business decision makers will be able to leverage information available on the facility to monitor developments in the international business environment, review policies and formulate new strategies.
For example, the Economy Watch portal shows trends in major economic variables pertaining to the global economy. Economic data are changing rapidly and economic forecasts are often proved wrong by unforeseen and unpredictable events. Yet globalisation, involving interaction along supply chains, demands that business and policy decisions take into consideration developments in the global economic and business landscape.
Need for informed decisions
Industrial policy formulation and the need for informed business decisions justify a close watch on new challenges and opportunities from the global economic and business environment, through a constant scanning process. For example, data from the global economic environment show subdued growth in advanced economies and rapid expansion in emerging economies. This section provides intelligence on markets in advanced, emerging and regional economies.
For example, businessmen and entrepreneurs learn that there are numerous constraints in penetrating the Australian market, according to a study commissioned by Enterprise Mauritius, as well as from desk research. This includes stiff competition from China. This report also identifies a lack of visibility of Mauritian products in Australia and geographical remoteness as a constraint. In fact, most of the time, products have to go via Singapore when exported to Australia.
Business analysis on Italy shows that this market, comprising a wide segment of family-owned retailers and specialised outlets selling branded products, is highly competitive. The Observatory suggests that Mauritian enterprises should make sustained efforts to penetrate this market.
Many Mauritian exporters already have experience of the UK market, where they can seize opportunities arising from future growth in that country, which is recovering from the economic crisis, urges the Observatory.
When it comes to the rest of Africa, the Observatory notes that demand by consumers is set to expand with the rapidly increasing population (from the current 900m to about 2bn by 2050) and the rising demand for imports. Cross-border trade, currently at about 15% of overall trade in Africa, is set to increase with higher economic growth and a burgeoning middle class in many African countries. This offers good opportunities for Mauritian exporters who can tap the potential in sectors such as garments, ICT services, agro-processed food, printed books and packaging products. Enterprises learn they can source fabrics from Third Countries, as Mauritius now benefits under the Third Country Fabrics provisions of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).
Much emphasis is placed on sustainable development from a long-term perspective. Mauritius is implementing a national programme aimed at promoting greater efficiency in production and consumption patterns in the island.
The concept, Maurice, Ile Durable (Mauritius, A Sustainable Island), introduced two years back, sets out to transform the island into a world model of sustainable development, particularly in the context of Small Island Developing States. The project focuses on five E’s: energy, environment, education, equity and employment. All entrepreneurs are required to keep this in mind as they go about their activities.
However, not all Mauritian businessmen have welcomed the observatory. Ved Luchmun, director of Maubon Foods, who exports banana chips to the EU, told African Business that it would have been better if the money could have been channelled to provide assistance on the cost of freight to facilitate exports, as it accounts for about 65% of the production costs: “We need help on this issue, technical assistance and support in terms of the exchange rate as the euro continues to fall.”
Deven Maulloo, general manager SETL (Renewable Energy), wants to move out of the island to Madagascar and further into Africa. “How do I do it? We need a desk officer to guide us, just as the Board of Investment is doing for foreigners, rather than a portal. So, better concentrate on this rather than giving us information and data that are available elsewhere.”