In an exclusive interview with ABN Digital, Benoit said tourism was a major component of Mauritius’s economy and remains a prominent factor in employment and a huge source of revenue. Benoit insists that the industry itself is moving beyond just tourism and hotels.
“We’ve seen a lot more people who might be coming with their families on indigenous trips, extending their time in Mauritius to go on Safaris in Africa. The whole hospitality cluster is taking on a different approach to meetings, conferences, events and integrating it with the neighbouring countries around us,” said Benoit.
“AfrAsia Bank’s role is very much going to be providing banking and transactional services so I’d say Mauritius is much like a Singapore or a Hong Kong for Africa.”
The bank serves Mauritius and the dynamic Africa-Asia trade and investment corridor, in which Mauritius plays a vital role as a regional financial and logistics hub. It enjoys a solid reputation as a well regulated centre. It also provides for guaranteed confidentiality for those engaged in legitimate business through express provisions and customary laws.
“Big international investors are doing business in many jurisdictions. Mauritius is a one-stop location. It’s not just about tax, it’s about capital controls, political stability. Investors, who want to do business in African countries by using Mauritius as a domicile, have all those benefits afforded to them so that’s very beneficial to African countries,” said Benoit.
One of the unique elements that makes Mauritius a competitive investment location is the preferential market access to the European Union under the Cotonou Agreement, the United States under the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and Africa under the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and Southern African Development Community (SADC).
“The focus is mainly on the COMESA, SADC countries – the countries we’ve got trade agreements and free trade relations with. Many Mauritian companies are companies that are using Mauritius as a base, doing things in Malawi, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Kenya so many of our big locals are making their investments where there’s just natural trade relations with Mauritius,” Benoit explained.
“As we all know, Africa has a massive pull for investments and a lot of that is going to come from foreign sources so Mauritius really provides a phenomenal risk-negating and cost-effective way for many African countries.”
Mauritius has frequent air links to major European, African and Asian cities and is signatory of AGOA.
Air Mauritius, one of the country’s primary airlines and a major contributor to the tourism industry, now serves 19 regional and international destinations including Africa.
“They’ve got a very good team running the airline and they look as though they are really pulling it together and doing very well. They’re very strong in the South African market, very focused in what they want to achieve. Obviously their links in Europe and France and the UK, they’ve got good services there and also into the East,” said Airline Association of Southern Africa CEO Chris Zweigenthal of Air Mauritius.
“I think it’s a bit presumptuous to say Mauritius will be the financial centre for all of Africa. Our strategic ability will be very important with Eastern and Southern Africa, a very strong partnership which will be continually developed,” said Benoit.
He added that the location of the island nation can be both an advantage and disadvantage but that a solid partnership with Africa would definitely see both parties benefit.
“It’s not just about extraction now, the GDP of Africa is built along consumer economies, telecoms and financials. Mauritius will be able to very much participate in that. That should be a major source of growth. I’d say things will be more cordial and more mutually understood as we go forward.”