Órama Talks Africa Business Climate And Merits Of Mauritius At Africa 21 Forum- Morocco
By Michael Adjei *
First of all, I want to say a big thank you to News Com Africa Holding for hosting the Africa 21 Forum and for granting me the opportunity to join this panel and for holding the visons of His Majesty King Mohammed VI of Morocco for a Resilient and sovereign water, energy and food security in Africa.
Also, a great thanks to Órama Corporate Services, the best Pan African Management Company in Mauritius, especially Keseena Chengadu, the CEO, for aligning her visions with the progress of Africa and empowering me to represent Mauritius on this platform. Ladies and Gentlemen, all protocols are duly observed, Thank you.
To begin with, Poor Leadership is undoubtedly at the forefront of Africa’s challenges, and I state emphatically. To answer the question, we must first look at some of the challenges hindering sustainable business growth and development in Africa. To list but a few; energy deficit, access to capital, ease of doing business, high lending rates, a conducive environment for a sustainable business growth, education, travel restrictions, unpredictable government policies on foreign exchange control, compliance to international regulatory standards, investor protection, conflicts and wars amongst ourselves , security and most importantly and currently a narrative that opposes the progress of Africa and the fundamental struggles of our forefathers.
Ladies and gentlemen, according to the world Banks, Doing Business 2020 Fact Sheet, it revealed that while some significant progress had been made to improve the climate for businesses across Africa, further improvement is needed, and at a faster pace, if the continent is to close the gap and realise its potential.
There were no African states sadly in the top 10 of the report and only two, Mauritius at number 13 and Rwanda at 38, in the top 50. Mauritius came up number one in the whole of Africa, And for that reason, let’s look at some of the best practices that Mauritius is utilising to enhance the progress the country and Africa as whole.
Mauritius offers a compliant and reliable platform for doing business, notably acclaimed for its business-friendly and investment-friendly jurisdiction, it offers investors a conducive environment for doing business which guarantees predictability, certainty and security.
Credit goes to Economic Development Board of Mauritius, Ladies and gentlemen, the national investment promotion agency of the Government of Mauritius mandated to promote and facilitate investment in the country. They came up with a number of strategic collaborative, innovative and pragmatic measures and policies that propelled Mauritius to be amongst the top 20 countries in the world for ease of doing business and has over the years consolidated its leadership position in Sub Saharan Africa with the 1st position. This acknowledgement by the World Bank confirms that Mauritius remains a competitive and attractive jurisdiction for the international investors’ community. But how?
With an array of network agreements comprising several Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement which offers an excellent protection for foreign business owners and Double Taxation Avoidance Agreements with African and international states that gives global investors, traders and private equity companies a preferential access to a number of key African markets and several hundreds of millions of customers.
Although Very Small Enterprises and Small Medium Enterprises represent more than 90% of businesses and employ nearly two-thirds of workers in Africa, very few are sustainable enough to make it through from start-ups to public offering and generate an annual revenue of $1 billion.
Ladies and gentlemen, the National SME Incubator Scheme (NSIS) for example is a scheme initiated by the Government of the Republic of Mauritius to encourage the creation of Innovative businesses for the socio-economic benefit of the Republic of Mauritius through a nurturing and training process in a conducive environment provided by Incubators. From ideas through to first plan and to the acceleration of growth of the Start-up.
Mauritius is also a fully collaborative and responsible international financial centre that has taken significant steps to adhere to international best practices. It is a member of the Early Adopters Group committed to the early implementation of the Common Reporting Standard (CRS) on the automatic exchange of financial account information while the OECD Global Forum has rated Mauritius as a “Largely Compliant” jurisdiction, a rating which equals that obtained by developed economies such as the US, the UK and Germany. It was the first African country to sign up to an Intergovernmental Agreement with the US for the implementation of the Foreign Accounts Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) and has joined the OECD’s Inclusive Framework to implement the Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) recommendations and the new initiative on exchange of beneficial ownership information.
Another big credit goes to the Financial Service Commission of Mauritius (FSC), one of the most robust and rigorous financial regulatory system and body in Africa, they managed to garner and boost investor confidence through a number of measures which has eventually attracted strong and internationally recognized banks and other financial institutions and subsequently developed a strong banking infrastructure in the region with very low lending rates, simple and attractive tax system and no foreign exchange control policies.
According to the Capital Economics Report for example, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to the tune of USD 80 billion into mainland Africa is mediated by Mauritius creating 4.2 million jobs in the continent.
Being the most compliant country and the number one in Africa in meeting all of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) recommendations, Mauritius supports other African countries to access the necessary capital to finance investment by reducing both the risks and costs associated with cross-border dealings.
The evidence of good governance and leadership in Mauritius cannot be overemphasized, which is why Mauritius is a beacon of political, social and economic stability in Africa.
Speaking of free movements and travel restrictions, Mauritius again stands out, and thanks to the passport control and immigration authorities of Mauritius, it opens its boarders to nearly every country in the world with a visa on arrival policy and no visa application fees including African countries. Tourist all over the world are able to visit this beautiful island nation, build networks and explore business opportunities.
Ladies and gentlemen, It is alarming to learn, according to the World Economic Forum, that Africa currently accounts for just 2% of global trade and only about 17% of African trade are intra-continental compared with 59% of Asia and 68% for Europe. African Leaders and relative institutions must begin to ask ourselves imminent and critical questions, We must begin to ask ourselves honest questions, with our borders still closed to our own people and knowing the humongous benefits of intra African trade and the series of infrastructural development it brings, are we really serious for progress and what kind of disadvantage, disservice and legacy are we leaving for the next generation to inherit in this competitive world that we are in. Why Africa?
There has been great initiatives like the African Unions agenda for 2063, The African Continental Free trade area on elimination of trade tariffs, excellent and beautiful but on paper. it will take more than just writing and talking to realise the agenda and to realise it quickly. Many agreements has been signed and pending ratification. But When? The intentions and the hastiness of the leaders formulating these policies with Africans in mind as the first priority is very key.
African leaders must put Africans first when formulating policies, If you look at some of the policies initiated by some immigrations institutions in Africa, it’s a joke, it’s obvious its designed to favour other nationals from other continents than Africans themselves. And the same can be said for other sectors. Yet we sit and talk everyday about pragmatic measure to enhance Africa’s development. It seems Pan-Africanism has become a romantic sentimental idea that we debate rather than actioning via patriotism.
Many Africans today prefer to abandon their continent to look for greener pastures overseas which is causing a significant brain drain on the continent. The wealthy are also shoring their finances and investments in foreign bank in other continents, further enriching them with resources to further develop their nations while depriving our own African International Financial centres. Mauritius for example is an African nation and an equally competitive jurisdiction compared to several other International Financial Centres. Ladies and gentlemen, the narrative must change. The solutions to the mistreatment of Africans as second-class citizens are in the hands of Africans. We must tell our own stories. We as Africans are responsible for creating an Africa that is politically stable, intellectually empowered and socioeconomically integrated, a stable continent that presents real growth and opportunities. Once we start taking ourselves seriously the world will follow.
* Michael Adjei is International Business Development Executive at Órama . He featured in the panel discussions of the first edition of the #Africa21Forumin#casablanca#morocco, an event hosted byNCA – News Com Africa Holdingunder the theme “Water-Energy-Food Nexus in a Context of Climate Change: King Mohammed VI’s Vision for a Resilient and Sovereign Africa”. He contributed to discussions on the topic “Business climate in Africa: for an environment conducive to the development of VSE-SMEs”, highlighting#mauritiusamongst African countries that stands out with a focus on some of the best practices identified in the main axes.