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Mauritius

Mauritius

Mauritius officially the Republic of Mauritius is an island nation off the coast of the African continent in the southwest Indian Ocean, about 900 kilometres east of Madagascar. In addition to the island of Mauritius, the Republic includes the islands of St. Brandon, Rodrigues and the Agalega Islands. Mauritius is part of the Mascarene Islands, with the French island of Runion 200 km to the southwest and the island of Rodrigues 570 km to the northeast.

By JSC ASC

Background History

Although known to Arab and Malay sailors as early as the 10th century, Mauritius was first explored by the Portuguese in the 16th century and subsequently settled by the Dutch - who named it in honor of Prince Maurits van Nassau - in the 17th century. The French assumed control in 1715, developing the island into an important naval base overseeing Indian Ocean trade, and establishing a plantation economy of sugar cane. The British captured the island in 1810, during the Napoleonic Wars. Mauritius remained a strategically important British naval base, and later an air station, playing an important role during World War II for anti-submarine and convoy operations, as well as the collection of signals intelligence. Independence from the UK was attained in 1968. A stable democracy with regular free elections and a positive human rights record, the country has attracted considerable foreign investment and has earned one of Africa's highest per capita incomes.

Government

Country Name:

  • conventional long form: Republic of Mauritius
  • conventional short form: Mauritius

Capital:

  • name: Port Louis
  • population: 149,000
  • geographic coordinates: 20 09 S, 57 29 E
  • time difference: UTC+4 (9 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)

Independence:

  • 12 March 1968 (from the UK)

Government Type:

  • parliamentary democracy

Executive Branch:

  • chief of state: President Sir Anerood Jugnauth (since 7 October 2003); Vice President Monique Ohsan-Bellepeau (since 13 November 2010)
  • head of government: Prime Minister Navinchandra Ramgoolam (since 5 July 2005)
  • elections: president and vice president elected by the National Assembly for five-year terms (eligible for a second term); elections last held on 19 September 2008 (next to be held in 2013); prime minister and deputy prime minister appointed by the president

Legislative Branch:

  • structure: unicameral National Assembly

Judicial Branch:

  • structure: Supreme Court

People & Society

Population:

  • 1,313,095 (global rank: 155)
  • growth rate: 0.705% (global rank: 140)

Nationality:

  • noun: Mauritian(s)
  • adjective: Mauritian

Major Cities:

  • Port Louis (capital) 149,000

Ethnic Groups:

  • Indo-Mauritian 68%, Creole 27%, Sino-Mauritian 3%, Franco-Mauritian 2%

Religions:

  • Hindu 48%, Roman Catholic 23.6%, Muslim 16.6%, other Christian 8.6%, other 2.5%, unspecified 0.3%, none 0.4%

Languages:

  • Creole 80.5%, Bhojpuri 12.1%, French 3.4%, English (official; spoken by less than 1% of the population), other 3.7%, unspecified 0.3%

Life Expectancy at Birth:

  • total population: 74.71 years (global rank: 99)
  • male: 71.25 years
  • female: 78.35 years

Infant Mortality:

  • total population: 11.2 deaths/1,000 live births (global rank: 138)
  • male: 13.32 deaths/1,000 live births
  • female: 8.98 deaths/1,000 live births

HIV/AIDS (2009 est.):

  • adult prevalence rate: 1% (global rank: 47)
  • people living with AIDS: 8,800 (global rank: 102)

Literacy:

  • definition: age 15 and over can read and write
  • total population: 84.4%
  • male: 88.4%
  • female: 80.5%

Economy

Since independence in 1968, Mauritius has developed from a low-income, agriculturally based economy to a middle-income diversified economy with growing industrial, financial, and tourist sectors. For most of the period, annual growth has been in the order of 5% to 6%. This remarkable achievement has been reflected in more equitable income distribution, increased life expectancy, lowered infant mortality, and a much-improved infrastructure. The economy rests on sugar, tourism, textiles and apparel, and financial services, and is expanding into fish processing, information and communications technology, and hospitality and property development. Sugarcane is grown on about 90% of the cultivated land area and accounts for 15% of export earnings. The government's development strategy centers on creating vertical and horizontal clusters of development in these sectors. Mauritius has attracted more than 32,000 offshore entities, many aimed at commerce in India, South Africa, and China. Investment in the banking sector alone has reached over $1 billion. Mauritius, with its strong textile sector, has been well poised to take advantage of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). Mauritius' sound economic policies and prudent banking practices helped to mitigate negative effects from the global financial crisis in 2008-09. GDP grew more than 4% per year in 2010-11, and the country continues to expand its trade and investment outreach around the globe.

Gross Domestic Product:

  • GDP (PPP): $19.28 billion (global rank: 128)
  • GDP per capita (PPP): $15,000 (global rank: 83)
  • real growth rate: 4.2% (global rank: 94)
  • composition by sector: agriculture: 4.4%, industry: 23.8%, services: 71.8%

Currency:

  • currency: Muritian Ruppe (MUR)
  • exchange rate (per US Dollar): 26.67

Poverty:

  • population below poverty line: 8%
  • unemployment rate: 7.8%

Agricultural Products:

  • sugarcane, tea, corn, potatoes, bananas, pulses; cattle, goats; fish

Industries:

  • food processing (largely sugar milling), textiles, clothing, mining, chemicals, metal products, transport equipment, nonelectrical machinery, tourism

Export Commodities:

  • clothing and textiles, sugar, cut flowers, molasses, fish

Import Commodities:

  • manufactured goods, capital equipment, foodstuffs, petroleum products, chemicals

Geography

Location:

  • Southern Africa, island in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar

Area:

  • total: 2,040 sq km (global rank: 181)
  • land: 2,030 sq km
  • water: 10 sq km
  • comparative: almost 11 times the size of Washington, DC

Climate:

  • tropical, modified by southeast trade winds; warm, dry winter (May to November); hot, wet, humid summer (November to May)

Land Use:

  • arable land: 49.02%
  • permanent crops: 2.94%
  • other: 48.04%

Natural Resources:

  • arable land, fish

Current Environmental Issues:

  • water pollution, degradation of coral reefs

Transnational Issues

  • international disputes: Mauritius and Seychelles claim the Chagos Islands; claims French-administered Tromelin Island
  • illicit drugs: consumer and transshipment point for heroin from South Asia; small amounts of cannabis produced and consumed locally; significant offshore financial industry creates potential for money laundering, but corruption levels are relatively low and the government appears generally to be committed to regulating its banking industry

For more info please contact:
African Studies
(310) 825-3686
africa@international.ucla.edu

African Studies Center