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Republic of Mauritius

CAPITAL: Port Louis

FLAG: The national flag consists of four horizontal stripes of red, blue, yellow, and green.

ANTHEM: Glory to Thee, Motherland, O Motherland of Mine.

MONETARY UNIT: The Mauritius rupee (r) is a currency of 100 cents. There are coins of 1, 2, 5, 10, 25, and 50 cents and 1 rupee, and notes of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, and 1,000 rupees. r1 = $0.03432 (or $1 = r29.14) as of 2005.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is in general use; traditional weights and measures also are employed.

HOLIDAYS: New Year, 12 January; National Day, 12 March; Labor Day, 1 May. Christian, Hindu, and Muslim holidays also are observed.

TIME: 4 pm = noon GMT.


Mauritius is situated in the Indian Ocean, about 900 km (559 mi) e of Madagascar and 2,000 km (1,250 mi) off the nearest point of the African coast. The island of Rodrigues, an integral part of Mauritius, is located about 560 km (350 mi) off its northeastern coast. The two islands of Agalega lie 1,122 km (697 mi) to then of Mauritius; also to then is the St. Brandon Group (Cargados Carajos Shoals). Mauritius has a total area of about 2,040 sq km (7788 sq mi), of which the island of Mauritius occupies 1,860 sq km (720 sq mi); the island of Rodrigues, 110 sq km (42.5 sq mi); and the other offshore islands, 71 sq km (27 sq mi). Comparatively, the area occupied by Mauritius is slightly less than 10.5 times the size of Washington, DC. Mauritius extends 61 km (38 mi) ns and 47 km (29 mi) ew, and has a coastline of 177 km (110 mi).

The nation also claims Diego Garcia, a British dependency about 1,900 km (1,200 mi) ne, and a French possession, Tromelin Island, about 555 km (345 mi) nw. The OAU has supported Mauritius's claim to Diego Garcia.

The capital city of Mauritius, Port Louis, is located on the island's northwest coast.


Mauritius is mostly of volcanic formation and is almost entirely surrounded by coral reefs. A coastal plain rises sharply to a plateau 275 to 580 m (9001,900 ft) high. Piton de la Rivière Noire, the highest peak, reaches 828 m (2,717 ft). The longest river is the Grand River South East, which stretches from the center of the country to the central eastern border with a distance of 40 km (29 mi).


The subtropical maritime climate is humid, with prevailing southeast winds. The temperature ranges from 18° to 30°c (6486°f) at sea level, and from 13° to 26°c (5579°f) at an elevation of 460 m (1,500 ft); the warmest season lasts from October to April, the coolest from June to September. From October to March, southeast trade winds bring heavy rains to the central plateau and windward slopes, which have a yearly average rainfall of over 500 cm (200 in). On the coast, rainfall averages about 100 cm (40 in) annually. Daily showers occur from April to September and occasional tropical cyclones between December and April.


Mauritius originally was covered by dense rain forest, which included heath and mossy forest at higher elevations and coastal palm savanna. Present vegetation consists chiefly of species brought by the settlers. Mauritius is the home of two indigenous snakes, the Boleyria multicarinata and Casarea dussumieri; also indigenous to Mauritius was the now extinct dodo bird, one of many exotic animal species that thrived in isolation from predators, including man. European settlers introduced dogs, cats, rats, monkeys, wild pigs, sambur deer, and mongoose.


The main environmental problems facing Mauritius are water pollution, soil erosion, and preservation of its wildlife. The sources of water pollution are sewage and agricultural chemicals. The erosion of the soil occurs through deforestation.

The Ministry of Housing, Lands, and the Environment has principal responsibility in environmental matters. As of 2003, about 7.8% of the nation's total land area is protected. According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), the number of threatened species included 3 types of mammals, 13 species of birds, 5 types of reptiles, 7 species of fish, 27 types of mollusks, 5 species of other invertebrates, and 87 species of plants. Endangered species on the island of Mauritius include the pink pigeon, Round Island boa and keel-scaled boa, green sea turtle, and Mauritius varieties of kestrel, parakeet, and fody. Endangered species on Rodrigues include distinctive varieties of brush warbler, fody, flying fox, and day gecko. Extinct species include the Mauritian duck, the Mauritius blue pigeon, the red rail, Rodrigues little owl, and the giant day gecko.


The population of Mauritius in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 1,243,000, which placed it at number 149 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 7% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 25% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 99 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 20052010 was expected to be 0.9%, a rate the government viewed as satisfactory. The projected population for the year 2025 was 1,426,000. The population density was 609 per sq km (1,578 per sq mi).

The UN estimated that 42% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 1.48%. The capital city, Port Louis, had a population of 143,000 in that year. Other cities and their estimated populations were Beau Bassin/Rose Hill, 106,987; Vacoas/Phoenix, 103,564; Curepipe, 81,600; and Quatre-Bornes.


A small number of Mauritians emigrate each year, principally to Australia, Europe, and Canada. In 2000 the number of migrants living in Mauritius was 8,000. The net migration rate was an estimated -0.41 per 1,000 population in 2005. The government views the migration levels as satisfactory.


The largest group on Mauritiusabout 68% of the populationis Indo-Mauritian, consisting of immigrants from India and their descendants. About 27% of the islanders are Creole (mixed European and African), 3% Sino-Mauritian, and 2% Franco-Mauritian.


English and French are the official languages; however, Creole, derived from French, is the most widely spoken (by 80.5% of the population). Bojpoori is the second most common language, spoken by about 12% of the population. Only 3.4% of the population speak French. Only a small minority speak English as a first language. On Rodrigues, virtually the entire population speaks Creole. Hindi, Urdu, and Hakka are also used in some groups.


According to a 2000 census, Hindus constituted about 50% of the total population. Christians made up about 32%, with a vast majority (about 85% of all Christians) affiliated with the Roman Catholic church. Other Christian denominations include Adventist, Assemblies of God, Christian Tamil, Church of England, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Evangelical, Jehovah's Witnesses, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Most Christians live in the southern portion of the country while the north tends to be predominantly Hindu. About 16% of the population were Muslims, with a majority being Sunni. There are a small number of Buddhists.

Throughout the country, there is a strong correlation between religious affiliation and ethnicity. Those of Indian descent are primarily Hindu or Muslim. Those of Chinese descent are often nominally Buddhists, but practicing Catholics, since they often admit their children to Catholic schools. Creoles and Europeans are primarily Catholic.

Though there is no state religion, a parliamentary decree allows that certain religions represented before independence (Roman Catholicism, the Church of England, Presbyterianism, Seventh-Day Adventist, Hinduism and Islam) are entitled to annual payments from the government. Other religions are registered by the Registrar of Associations in order to attain legal, tax-exempt status. Though there has been some social and political tension between the Hindu majority and the Christian, Muslim, and Creole minorities, there are few reports of violence or blatant discrimination. Certain Hindu, Tamil, Christian, and Muslim holidays are recognized as national holidays. The Ministry of Arts and Culture has a responsibility to promote interreligious and intercultural relations within the country.


Mauritius had an estimated 2,254 km (1,402 mi) of roads in 2003, of which all were paved, and included 75 km (47 mi) of expressways. As of 2003, there were 39,412 commercial vehicles and 101,436 private passenger cars. In 2005, the country had eight merchant ships in service of 1,000 GRT or more for a combined capacity of 22,946 GRT. In 1999 the Port Louis harbor completed a major expansion and modernization. Also in 2004 there were six airports, only two of which had paved runways as of 2005. Air Mauritius provides about four flights weekly to Rodrigues from the main airport at Plaisance, as well as, over 40 weekly international flights. In early 2001 Air Mauritius concluded an alliance with Delta Airlines. Other major airlines serving Mauritius are Air France, British Airways, Air India, Air Zimbabwe, Lufthansa (Condor), Singapore Airlines and South African Airways. In 2003, about 1.035 million passengers were carried on scheduled domestic and international flights.


Long uninhabited, Mauritius was probably visited by Arab and Malay seamen and later by Portuguese and other European voyagers. However, significant contact did not take place until the Dutch, under Admiral Wybrandt van Warwijck, arrived in 1598. They named the island after their stadtholder, Prince Maurice of Nassau. Settlers arrived in 1638; their settlements were abandoned in 1710, however, and the French took possession in 1715, sending settlers from Réunion in 1721. The island was governed by the French East India Company until 1767, and by the French government for the next 43 years, except for a brief period of independence during the French Revolution. During the Napoleonic wars, French-held Mauritius became a major threat to British shipping in the Indian Ocean, and Britain occupied it in 1810.

Under British rule, Mauritius became a sugar-producing island. The French community secured major control of the cane fields and sugar refineries; lacking any appreciable British settlement, the island remained French in culture. Abolition of slavery in the British Empire caused an acute labor problem as the former slaves, African in origin, left the sugar fields to go into other occupations. To offset this loss, the United Kingdom, from 1835, allowed the planters to import indentured laborers from India. The system continued until 1907, with 450,000 Indians migrating to Mauritius.

The constitution of 1831 provided for a Council of Government, in which representation was largely by Europeans, although a few Creoles won nomination. The constitution of 1886 provided for a council of 27 members, including 10 elected members. The electorate was limited by property qualifications, which denied the population of Indian descent elective representation until 1926. The constitution of 1947 abolished property qualifications and extended the franchise to both sexes. Since 1948, the Indian population has dominated the elective seats. As a result of a constitutional conference held in London in September 1965, Mauritius was granted full internal self-government.

Mauritius became independent on 12 March 1968 and one month later became a member of the UN. Disturbances at the time of independence between Muslims and Creoles forced declaration of a state of emergency, at which time UK troops from Singapore aided in restoring order. Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, chief minister in the colonial government, became the first prime minister after independence. Ramgoolam's Mauritius Labor Party (MLP) held power alone, or in coalition with others, until June 1982 when an alliance of the Mauritian Militant Movement (MMM) and the Mauritian Socialist Party (PSM) captured all 60 directly elected seats on the island of Mauritius. This coalition, known as the Militant Socialist Movement (MSM) formed a government. MMM leader Aneerood Jugnauth became prime minister. In March 1983, however, 11 of the 19 ministers resigned, all MMM members, and new elections were called. The voting, in August of that year, produced a clear mandate for a new coalition forged by Jugnauth. The MMM-dominated coalition won another clear-cut victory in August 1987 Legislative Assembly elections.

Jugnauth's coalition received a mandate again in the September 1991 general elections, winning 59 of 62 directly elected seats. As promised, the MSM/MMM alliance amended the constitution, making Mauritius a republic within the Commonwealth. Since 12 March 1992, Queen Elizabeth II has been replaced by a Mauritian chief of state.

In 1993, there was trouble in the coalition when a prominent minister in the MMM met officials of the Social Democrats (PMSD). The minister was fired by Jugnauth, but the other MMM members stayed in the coalition. At times, it appeared that the ruling coalition would fray, but they managed to negotiate terms of conciliation and stood united for the 20 December 1995 elections when they took 65% of the vote, or 60 of 62 elected seats. Dr. Navinchandra Ramgoolam became prime minister. Cassam Uteem and Angidi Veeriah Chettiar were later elected president and vice president.

Trouble in the coalition resurfaced in June 1997 when Ramgoolam fired MMM's leader, Paul Bérenger, who was vice-premier and minister of Foreign Affairs. Seven cabinet ministers belonging to MMM resigned in protest and, together with other elected MMM candidates, joined the parliamentary opposition group. This precipitated a second cabinet reshuffle since Ramgoolam took power in 1995. This left the labor party in power with only small parties aligned with it. Bérenger's place was now occupied by the vice president of the Labor Party, Kailash Purryag.

This unbalanced configuration provoked fears of a repeat of the ethnic clashes that had rocked Mauritius in 1968; however, ethnic violence did not materialize. After three days of rioting in the capital (Port Louis) and other parts of the country in February 1999, the country gradually returned to normal. Clashes between Rastafarians and police were triggered by the death in police custody of a popular reggae singer, Kaya. Three protesters were killed, a policeman died of heart failure, and over 100 were wounded in the clashes.

Although the country had suffered corruption scandals under the previous administration of Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam, Mauritius has largely avoided the corruption scourge characterizing much of Africa. After winning the September 2000 elections, the coalition government under Jugnauth and Bérenger stated that its priorities were to boost local and foreign investor confidence, and to re-launch the economy.

Mauritius is one of a few sub-Saharan African countries to attain the rank of middle-income status and rule by constitutional processthe country has had only three prime ministers since independence. In February 2002, two presidentsin their mostly ceremonial roleresigned in the space of a week objecting to antiterror legislation prompted by the 11 September attacks on the World Trade Center. An interim president, Supreme Court Chief Justice Arianga Pillay, signed the bill into law, which was twice passed by the parliament owing to strong support from Prime Minister Anerood Jugnauth. The constitution requires the president either to sign the bill into law or leave office.

A ruling by the WTO following complaints of unfair trade practices lodged by Australia, Thailand, and Brazil caused Mauritius to lose its preferential access to US and European markets during 200507. Mauritius has enjoyed duty-free entry and trade quotas for its top two exports of sugar and textiles into the European and American markets since the 1970s. Under the Sugar Protocol, Mauritius enjoyed an annual fixed quota of over 500,000 metric tons at prices just under two-thirds of the world market price. Textiles were guaranteed duty-free entry into European Markets under the Lomé Convention with the EU, and a series of Multi-Fibre Agreements (MTA) renewed in 1977 and three other times since (the first MTA came to an end in 2005) restricted imports of low-cost textiles into Mauritius. This preferential access had attracted many investors into Mauritius.

Proposals by the EU reduced sugar prices in the EU by 37.5% during 200507. Removal of special trade status also exposes Mauritius to stiff competition from low-cost textile producers, notably China. The impending change in trade status resulted in tens of thousands of jobs lost in 2003/04 and more expected to follow in the export-processing zone (EPZ). With the comparative advantage about to evaporate, many investors were relocating to other low-cost countries. As one of the measures to revive the economy, Pravind Jugnauth, deputy prime minister and minister of finance and economic development, announced in April 2005 that Mauritius would become a duty-free island within four years, in order to attract tourists and trade and give Mauritians easier access to quality products at affordable prices. Still, economic woes precipitated by loss of preferential trade status, in particular growing unemployment, had political implications.

Analysts believe growing unemployment and a worsening economy helped to narrowly squeeze the opposition MLP-led Alliance Sociale into power in parliamentary elections that were held 3 July 2005. This alliance included five other parties: the Mauritian Party of Xavier-Luc Duval (Parti Mauricien Xavier-Luc Duval, PMXD), PMSD, The Greens (Les Verts), the Republican Movement (Mouvement Républicai, MR) and the Mauritian Militant Socialist Movement (Mouvement Militant Socialist Mauricien, MMSM). It beat the outgoing coalition composed of MSM and MMM. The Alliance Sociale coalition won 48.8% of the vote and 38 of the 62 elected seats compared to 42.6% of the vote and 22 seats won by the MSM/MMM/PMSD coalition. The turnout was 81.5%. Navinchandra Ramgoolam, the MLP leader, replaced Bérenger as the prime minister and formed a new government.


The Mauritian government is parliamentary, with executive power vested under the constitution in a ceremonial president and an executive prime minister, who is leader of the majority party in parliament. The president and vice president are elected by the National Assembly, to serve five-year terms. The prime minister heads a Council of Ministers, which is responsible to a unicameral Legislative Assembly. Of its maximum 70 members, 62 are elected by universal suffrage (age 18), and as many as 8 "best losers" are chosen from runners-up by the Electoral Supervisory Commission by a formula designed to give at least minimal representation to all ethnic groups and underrepresented parties.

In elections held 25 February 2002, Karl Offmann was elected president and Raouf Bundhun vice president. Parliamentary elections were held 11 September 2000. In September 2003 the two-time premier, Sir Anerood Jugnauth, kept his coalition and campaign promise to hand over the premiership in mid-term to the MMM leader, and stepped down, and his deputy, Paul Raymond Bérenger, became prime minister. On 7 October 2003 Sir Anerood Jugnauth was sworn in as president of the republic, after Karl Offmann stepped down a year-and-a-half after assuming power. Raouf Bundhun remained vice president. Presidential elections are scheduled for 2007. Bérenger, the first Catholic, Franco-Mauritian head of government, did not stay in power for long either. Parliamentary elections held on 3 July 2005 returned Navin Chandra Ramgoolam to office as prime minister.


The Mauritius Labor Party (MLP), headed by Prime Minister Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, received support during 35 continuous years in office (194782) from the Hindu and Creole communities and some Muslims; often sharing power in those years was the Muslim Committee of Action (MCA). The Mauritian Social Democratic Party (Parti Mauricien Social-Démocratique, PMSD) has long represented the Franco-Mauritian and Creole landowning class.

A new political party, the Mauritian Militant Movement (MMM), was formed in 1970. Its leaders were imprisoned in 1971 after the MMM called for a general strike to protest legislation banning strikes in industries controlled by MMM affiliates. The party leadership was later freed, and in the 1976 elections the MMM won more seats than the MLP, although not enough to achieve power. In the 1982 elections, the MMM captured 42 seats in parliament and joined the Mauritian Socialist Party (Parti Socialiste Mauricien, PSM) in a ruling coalition under Aneerood Jugnauth; unlike the MMM, which had strong Creole representation, the PSM was primarily Hindu.

Jugnauth's government fell apart in the early months of 1983, in the course of a power struggle within the MMM that led to the prime minister's expulsion from his own party. Jugnauth then formed the Mauritian Socialist Movement (Mouvement Socialiste Mauricien, MSM), which, in alliance with the MLP, captured 37 of 62 directly elected seats in the August balloting. The MMM won 19 seats, the PMSD 4, and a Rodrigues-based party, the Organisation du Peuple Rodriguais (OPR), 2. In August 1987 elections, the MSM, in alliance with the MLP and PMSD, won 39 of 62 directly elected seats; a three-party coalition including the MMM won 21 seats; and the OPR won 2 seats.

The legislative elections of 15 September 1991 resulted in the MSM/MMM alliance getting 59 seats (53% of the vote) and the MLP/PMSD alliance three seats (38%). By October 1993, however, the MMM had divided into two factions: one remained in the government and the other, headed by former Foreign Minister Paul Bérenger, took opposition seats in parliament.

Legislative elections held in December 1995 saw a newly solidified MMM/MLP coalition win 60 seats (35 for MLP and 25 for MMM) of the 62 elected seats. The Rodrigues Movement had two seats; two seats were given to the OPR; one to the Gaetan Duval Party; and one to Hizbullah. The MMM/MLP coalition fell apart in June 1997 with the firing of Bérenger from the vice-premiership, leaving the MLP in power with small parties aligned with it.

Following the reconfiguration of an opposition alliance comprising Anerood Jugnauth's Militant Socialist Movement and Paul Bérenger's Mauritian Militant Movement, the coalition successfully swept the 11 September 2000 elections, winning 52.3% of the vote, and holding the MLP/PMSD to 36.9%, and the OPR to 10.8%. The breakdown of seats was 54 for the MSM/MMM, 6 for the MLP/PMSD, and 2 for the OPR. Sir Anerood Jugnauth stepped down as he had promised and handed the premiership over to Paul Bérenger on 30 September 2003. Bérenger was to lose it in the 2005 elections.

In parliamentary elections held on 3 July 2005, the opposition Alliance Sociale led by the MLP, and also incorporating the PMXD, PMSD, The Greens, MR and MMSM, narrowly won the elections, garnering 48.8% of the vote and winning 38 of the 62 contested seats. The Alliance Social ousted Alliance MSM/MMM which won 42.6% of the vote and 22 parliamentary seats. The two remaining seats for Rodrigues were won by OPR, which took only 0.8% of the vote. According to the constitution, President Anerood Jugnauth allocated an additional eight seats to ethnic groups, bringing total representation to 42 Alliance Sociale, 24 MSM/MMM, and 4 OPR.


There are nine administrative districts and three dependencies, of which the Island of Rodrigues is one. The other dependencies are Agalega Islands and Carajos Shoals. The lowest level of local government is the village council, composed of elected as well as nominated members; above the village councils are three district councils. Commissions govern the major towns. There are also three dependencies.

Municipal council elections were held on 2 October 2005 followed by village council elections on 11 December 2005. The Alliance Sociale won all the wards in all the five municipalities, except in one of the four wards of the Town of Beau Bassin-Rose Hill, where Alliance MSM/MMM won three of the seven council positions.


The statutes are based mainly on old French codes and on more recent laws with English precedents. The Supreme Court has a chief justice and six other judges who also serve on the Court of Criminal Appeal, the Court of Civil Appeal, the Intermediate Court, the Industrial Court, and 10 district courts. Final appeal can be made to the UK Privy Council.

The president, in consultation with the prime minister, nominates the chief justice, and then with the advice of the chief justice also appoints the associate judges. The president nominates other judges on the advice of the Judicial and Legal Service Commissions.

The legal system provides fair public trials for criminal defendants. Defendants have the right to counsel, including court-appointed counsel in case of indigency.

Mauritius has had a good record of freedom of the press and rule of law, except for isolated incidents. These include a rough economic period and unrest in the 1970s when the government attempted to impose some restrictions, particularly on newspapers opposed to its policies, and arbitrary arrests became more frequent, but fierce opposition led to the abolition of the laws. There were also local and international concerns over government plans to put in place "sanctions" against private radio stations which had angered the government over coverage of an explosion in the northern city of Grand-Baie in August 2004.


All defense and security duties are carried out by a 2,000 personnel paramilitary police force. The forces within this structure were an estimated 500-member Coast Guard and an estimated 1,500member Special Mobile Force. There was also an air wing with two utility helicopters. The defense budget for 2005 was $21.4 million.


Mauritius joined the United Nations on 24 April 1968 and belongs to ECA and several nonregional specialized agencies, such as the FAO, IAEA, the World Bank, UNESCO, UNIDO, and the WHO. The nation participates in the WTO, the African Development Bank, COMESA, Commonwealth of Nations, G-77, the ACP Group, Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), and African Union. In 1984, Mauritius joined Madagascar and Seychelles in establishing the Indian Ocean Commission; the Comoros and France (as the representative of Réunion) joined in 1985. Mauritius also is a member of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC). The country is part of the Nonaligned Movement.

In environmental cooperation, Mauritius is part of the Basel Convention, the Convention on Biological Diversity, Ramsar, CITES, the Kyoto Protocol, the Montréal Protocol, MARPOL, the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Climate Change, and Desertification.


The Mauritius economy, diverse and conservatively managed, is based on export-oriented manufacturing (mainly clothing), sugar, and tourism. Most of production is done by private enterprise, with the government largely limiting its role to providing institutional facilities and incentives for production. More than 250 garment factories were operating in the Export Processing Zone (EPZ) of Mauritius in 2002, and more than 500 companies operate in the EPZ overall. As of 2005, services accounted for 64% of GDP, industry for 29.9%, and agriculture for 6.1%.

The economy grew at an impressive average rate of 6% in the early 1980s. However, economic growth started to decline in 1988 as the economy experienced some of the problems associated with success, including labor shortages, rising inflation, and capacity constraints. In the early 1990s, the economy showed signs of a modest recovery, with solid real growth and low unemployment. Between 1988 and 1998, the economy was estimated to have grown at an annual rate of approximately 5.3%, which is approximately where it stood in 2001. The GDP growth rate was estimated at 3.8% in 2005.

Important to Mauritius's industrial development is the Export Processing Zone (EPZ) in which imported goods and raw materials are processed for export. EPZ products include textiles and clothing (80%), electrical components, and diamonds. Manufacturing in the EPZ provided nearly 45% of export earnings in 2002. Legislation gives investors in EPZ enterprises tax relief, duty exemption on most imports, unlimited repatriation of capital and profits, and cut-rate electricity. However, some of the country's larger manufacturing industries were moving their labor-intensive production to Madagascar. Preferential access to markets in Europe and the United States has been threatened by WTO regulations that do away with textile, clothes, and sugar quotas.

Sugarcane covers approximately 45% of the island's land area, and 90% of cultivated land. Sugarcane accounts for 25% of export earnings. Adverse weather conditions reduced the importance of sugarcane to the Mauritian economy in the late 1990s, but exports of cane brought in almost 8% of the GDP. To further enhance its competitive advantage, in 1992 the government passed legislation for the creation of a commercial free port in Port Louis. The free port provides warehousing as well as facilities for processing foods and materials for reexport to destinations around the world. The financial services sector of the economy is expanding, as is the tourism sector. Mauritius is increasing its trade with India and South Africa, largely through more than 9,000 offshore entities.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Mauritius's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $16.4 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $13,300. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 3.8%. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 5.6%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 6.1% of GDP, industry 29.9%, and services 64%.

According to the World Bank, in 2003 remittances from citizens working abroad totaled $215 million or about $176 per capita and accounted for approximately 4.1% of GDP.

The World Bank reports that in 2003 household consumption in Mauritius totaled $3.23 billion or about $2,644 per capita based on a GDP of $5.2 billion, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings. It was estimated that for the period 1990 to 2003 household consumption grew at an average annual rate of 4.7%. In 2001 it was estimated that approximately 21% of household consumption was spent on food, 13% on fuel, 3% on health care, and 13% on education. It was estimated that in 2001 about 10% of the population had incomes below the poverty line.


Mauritius's labor force in 2005 was estimated at 570,000 workers. As of 2003, about 53.6% were employed in the services sector, 37.1% by industry and 9.4% by agriculture. The estimated unemployment rate in 2005 was 10.5%.

Unions have the legal right to organize, strike, and bargain collectively, and the trade union movement is active. There were over 335 labor unions in 2001, with 111,231 members, representing about 22% of the workforce. Workers are granted the right to strike, but this is severely curtailed by a mandatory cooling-off period and compulsory binding arbitration. Antiunion discrimination is prohibited and an arbitration tribunal handles complaints of such discrimination. Although the law protects collective bargaining, there are not enough safeguards in place to protect employees from discriminatory actions by employers.

The minimum working age is 15, with restrictions for those under age 18. However, child labor and exploitation is still practiced and penalties for infractions are minimal. Minimum wages are set by the government, and cost-of-living allowances are mandatory. The minimum wage ranged from $3.53 to $12.30 per week in 2002, but due to a labor shortage and contract negotiations, actual wages are about double this figure. The standard legal workweek is 45 hours.


Sugarcane is the major crop. In 2004, 5.28 million tons of cane were produced. Sugarcane occupies 34% of Mauritius's total land area and 68% of its cultivated land. It is an estate economy, with 21 large estates accounting for about 30% of the land cultivated, and 14,822 employees in 2004. Small operations account for 40% of the land cultivated and are grouped into cooperatives. In 2004, processing of sugar accounted for 16% of agricultural exports. Agriculture accounted for 6% of GDP and 19% of exports in 2004. Sugar's importance has diminished in recent years as manufacturing and tourism have grown.

Tea production in Mauritius has been on the decline, disadvantaged by production cost increases, labor shortages, and low world prices. The area under tea cultivation declined from 2,905 hectares (7,178 acres) in 1990 to 674 in 2004. Tobacco production was 357 tons in 2004, and now provides the raw material for most locally produced cigarettes. In recent years, horticultural products have been successfully grown for export, including flowers (mainly anthuriums), tropical fruits, and vegetables.

Other crops and 2004 yields were (in thousands of tons): tea, 8.7; potatoes, 11.2; tomatoes, 14.4; bananas, 12; cucumbers, 6.9; and cabbage, 6.5. Almost any crop can be grown on Mauritius, but the shortage of land means almost all cereals must be imported, including rice, the staple food. Potatoes and other vegetables are grown in the sugar fields between rows of cane.


In 2005, Mauritius had 93,000 goats, 28,000 head of cattle, 11,500 pigs, and 9.8 million chickens. That year, 4,000 tons of cow milk, 30,500 tons of meat, and 5,200 tons of hen eggs were produced.


The total catch in 2003 was 11,169 tons, a decline from 21,157 tons in 1993. In 2003, about 16% of the catch consisted of snapper. Exports of fish products were valued at nearly $75.1 million in 2003.


About 8% of the total land area of Mauritius is classified as forest. Roundwood removals were an estimated 13,550 cu m (478,300 cu ft) in 2004, half of it burned as fuel. Sawn wood production was about 3,000 cu m (106,000 cu ft) in 2004.


There were few mineral resources in Mauritius. In 2004, Mauritius produced 89,400 metric tons of fertilizers, an estimated 7,700 metric tons of marine salt, and 65,000 metric tons of semi-manufactured steel. Historically, mineral output consisted of the local production and use of basalt construction stone, coral sand, lime from coral, and solar-evaporated sea salt. Concerns have been raised about the impact of coral sand mining on coastal lagoons. Polymetallic nodules occurred on the ocean floor, northeast of Tromelin Island, containing iron, manganese, and cobalt. However, these minerals were abundant on land. The near-term outlook for the exploitation of minerals other than construction materials was negligible.


Mauritius, as of 1 January 2005 had no proven reserves of crude oil, natural gas, coal or petroleum refining capacity. As a result it is totally dependent upon imports to meet its fossil fuel needs.

In 2004, imports and consumption of refined petroleum products averaged 27,000 barrels per day. In 2003 demand for coal came to 320,000 short tons.

As of 1 January 2003, installed electric power generating capacity totaled 0.655 million kW, of which 91.6% of capacity was dedicated to conventional thermal fuel sources in 2002, and the remainder to hydropower. Electric power production totaled 1.94 billion kWh and consumption 1.81 billion kWh. A significant portion of all primary energy consumed comes from bagasse, or sugarcane waste.


Since 1986, Export Processing Zone (EPZ) export earnings have led those of the sugar sector. Investors are primarily from Mauritius itself and Hong Kong. The textile industry was the leading sector in the EPZ, with more than 90% of the EPZ's goods being produced for the United States and Europe; with the change in Mauritius's trade status taking effect in 2005, export earnings were under severe pressure. Other important products include chemicals, electronics, nonelectrical machinery, transportation equipment, precision engineering, skilled crafts, toys, nails, razor blades, and tires. Industry accounted for 29.9% of GDP in 2005. Mauritius is also emerging as a major business and financial center.

Manufacturing centers on the processing of agricultural products, sugarcane in particular. Of the 20 large sugar-producing estates 17 have their own factory. Normal production varies between 600,000 to 700,000 metric tons, but adverse weather during the late 1990s reduced these figures. Molasses and rum are among the sugar by-products produced in Mauritius. Local tobacco is made into cigarettes, and factories are maintained to process tea. Other small industries produce goods for local consumption, such as beer and soft drinks, shoes, metal products, and paints.


In 1997, (the latest year for which data is available) there were 201 scientists and engineers and 126 technicians per million people that were engaged in research and development (R&D), R&D expenditures that year totaled $27.659 million or 0.29% of GDP. Of that amount, government sources accounted for 94.7%, with foreign sources accounting for the remaining 5.3%. High technology exports in 2002 totaled $29 million, or 2% of the country's manufactured exports.

The Mauritius Institute in Port Louis, founded in 1880, is a research center for the study of local fauna and flora. The Mauritius Sugar Industry Research Institute, founded in 1953, is located at Réduit. The University of Mauritius, founded in 1965 at Réduit, has schools of agriculture, engineering, and science. In 198797, science and engineering students accounted for 14% of college and university enrollments. The Regional Sugarcane Training Center for Africa, located in Réduit, is sponsored by the United Nations Development Program. The Port Louis Museum maintains collections of fauna, flora and geology of Mauritius and other islands of the Mascarene region.


Port Louis is the commercial center and the chief port. A wide variety of goods are distributed through the standard channels of importers, wholesalers, retailers, and supermarkets. Franchising, mainly in restaurants, has become more popular in the past few years. The nation's first McDonald's opened in 2001.

The government maintains price and markup controls on a number of consumer goods, including rice, onions, iron and steel bars, edible oils, certain appliances, pharmaceuticals, sporting goods, timber, and many others. A 1998 Consumer Protection Act extends government pricing controls to several other basic commodities, such as cheese, butter, canned and frozen meats, and sugar. There is a 15% VAT tax.

The Mauritius Freeport, a customs duty-free zone in the port and airport, turned the country into a major regional distribution, transshipment, and marketing center. This zone provides facilities for warehousing, transshipment operations and minor processing, simple assembly, and repackaging.

Business hours are from 9 am to 4 pm, MondayFriday, and 9 am to 12 pm on Saturday. Banks are open from 9:30 am to 2:30 pm, MondayFriday, and 9:30 to 11:30 am on Saturday. Shops operate from 9:30 am to 5 pm, Monday through Friday, and from 9 am to 12 pm on Saturday. Most business is conducted in English and French.

Country Exports Imports Balance
World 1,862.1 2,389.5 -527.4
United Kingdom 574.3 78.0 496.3
France-Monaco 396.3 286.0 110.3
United States 325.3 62.5 262.8
Madagascar 116.9 50.4 66.5
Italy-San Marino-Holy See 68.5 75.6 -7.1
Germany 55.7 77.6 -21.9
Belgium 34.1 33.9 0.2
Netherlands 30.7 24.0 6.7
South Africa 28.2 288.7 -260.5
Spain 23.6 39.8 -16.2
() data not available or not significant.


Export revenues from the Export Processing Zone (EPZ) in the early 2000s amounted to 75% of total exports; and over $1.2 billion in receipts. Over half of Mauritius's exports are comprised of clothes and textiles, while the majority of the remainder belongs to the sugar trade. With the change in trade status and new pricing structures for the EU going into effect, Mauritius's exports were likely to suffer. In 2004, Mauritius's principal export partners were: the United Kingdom (33.1%), France (20.4%), the United States (14.8%), Madagascar (5.1%), and Italy (4.1%). The principal import partners in 2004 were: South Africa (11.3%), China (9.4%), India (9.3%), France (9.2%), Bahrain (5.3%), and Japan (4.1%).


Mauritius imports more than it exports, but the difference is taken care of by revenues from tourism and other services. In 2005, the value of Mauritius's exports was estimated at $1.949 billion, and imports were estimated at $2.507 billion. The current-account balance was estimated at $151 million in 2005. Mauritius had $1.605 billion in foreign exchange reserves and gold in 2005. The country held an external debt burden of $2.958 billion.


The Bank of Mauritius is the central bank. The Development Bank of Mauritius was established in March 1964 to provide loans for agricultural and industrial enterprises. There were 10 commercial banks operating in the country in 2002. Three were locally owned, including The Mauritius Commercial Bank Limited and the Sate Bank of Mauritius Limited, both of which dominated the market. The government-controlled Development Bank of Mauritius Limited provides loans to industry. The other seven banks are offshore, offering attractive tax rates, especially to US investment in India. Foreign exchange reserves at the Bank of Mauritius stood at $840 million in 1997, and were expected to reach $875 million by mid-1998. Total commercial bank assets were estimated at $3.4 billion.

The government made it clear early in the first quarter of 1997 that the Bank of Mauritius would intervene in the foreign exchange market in order to stabilize the value of the rupee. Interventions by the central bank helped the rupee to rebound after its decline against most foreign currencies, during the first nine months of 1996. In 1997, the Mauritian rupee was freely convertible.

The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $530.5 million. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $3.6 billion. The money market rate, the rate at which financial institutions lend to one another in the short term, was 7.25%.

A market for securities or shares was not new to Mauritius when the Stock Exchange of Mauritius (SEMDEX) opened in 1989. Shares of companies had been traded in Mauritius in a market environment since the nineteenth century. The main difference between the market organized by Chambre de Courtiers de l'île Maurice and the market in its present form is the legal framework within which dealings in shares must now take place, and the regular meetings for share dealing. The stock market was opened to foreigners in 1994. In 2001, the market had 40 listed companies, and a capitalization that grew from $55 million in 1989 to $1.8 billion in 1997, but then had declined to $1.1 billion by 2001. As of 2004, a total of 41 companies were listed on the SEMDEX, with a total capitalization of $2.379 billion. In 2004, the SEMDEX rose 29.3% from the previous year to 710.8.


There are at least 20 insurance companies operating in Mauritius. In 2003, the value of all direct insurance premiums written totaled

Current Account 121.7
     Balance on goods -277.7
         Imports 2,216.7
         Exports 1,939.0
     Balance on services 373.7
     Balance on income -30.1
     Current transfers 55.8
Capital Account -0.9
Financial Account 89.7
     Direct investment abroad 6.0
     Direct investment in Mauritius 62.6
     Portfolio investment assets -27.1
     Portfolio investment liabilities 8.9
     Financial derivatives
     Other investment assets -22.8
     Other investment liabilities 62.0
Net Errors and Omissions 11.8
Reserves and Related Items -222.4
() data not available or not significant.

$241 million, of which life insurance premiums accounted for $146 million. As of that same year, Mauritius's top nonlife insurer was Swan, with gross written nonlife premiums of $20.7 million. The country's leading life insurer in 2003 was BAI, which had gross written life insurance premiums of $47.7 million.


From the mid-1970s to 1981, the ratio of fiscal deficit to GDP increased from under 10% to 14%, due to deficit public spending. During the 1980s, an export-oriented economy caused the fiscal deficit to decline to 3% of GDP by 1989, and to 2% by 1991. In 1997, the deficit reached 4.6%, but the government announced measures that aimed at reducing the figure to 3.6% of GDP. The government's plan did not work; by fiscal year 2001/2002, the deficit had climbed to 6.3%. The new goal is to bring the deficit down to 3% of GDP by fiscal year 2005/2006.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 Mauritius's central government took in revenues of approximately $1.3 billion and had expenditures of $1.7 billion. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately -$393 million. Public debt in 2005 amounted to 26.2% of GDP. Total external debt was $2.958 billion.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2003, the most recent year for which it had data, central government revenues were r32,919 million and expenditures were r37,972 million. The value of revenues in US dollars was us$1,180 and expenditures us$1,304, based on a market exchange rate for 2003 of us$1 = r27.901 as reported by the IMF. Government outlays by function were as follows: general public services, 24.5%; defense, 0.8%; public order and safety, 7.6%; economic affairs, 11.9%; environmental protection, 4.2%; housing and community amenities, 4.5%; health, 8.4%; recreation, culture, and religion, 2.2%; education, 15.8%; and social protection, 20.1%.

Revenue and Grants 32,919 100.0%
     Tax revenue 26,121 79.3%
     Social contributions 1,256 3.8%
     Grants 363 1.1%
     Other revenue 5,180 15.7%
Expenditures 37,972 100.0%
     General public services 9,303 24.5%
     Defense 299 0.8%
     Public order and safety 2,897 7.6%
     Economic affairs 4,518 11.9%
     Environmental protection 1,602 4.2%
     Housing and community amenities 1,723 4.5%
     Health 3,177 8.4%
     Recreational, culture, and religion 835 2.2%
     Education 5,997 15.8%
     Social protection 7,621 20.1%
() data not available or not significant.


As of 30 June 2005, Mauritius had a corporate income tax rate of 25%. However, companies that are awarded Tax Incentive Certificates by the government are eligible for a reduced tax rate of 15%. Effective 1 July 1998, offshore companies incorporated on or after this date were required to pay tax at a rate of 15%. In addition, mutual funds, unit trusts, and certain other types of companies pay a reduced rate of 15%. Companies granted a Global Business License are taxed at 15% and are eligible for other tax reductions and exemptions. Mauritius has double-taxation prevention treaties with about 30 countries. Generally, capital gains are not subject to an income tax. However, capital gains resulting from the disposal of land can be subjected to a separate tax. Land development taxes can also be assessed. Dividends are tax exempt.

The progressive scale for individual income tax, ranging from 530%, has been replaced by a simpler split schedule of two rates on taxable income: 15% on taxable income to 25,000 Rupees (about $860), and 25% on the rest. Social Security taxes are also assessed.

A general sales tax (GST) averaging 5% was imposed in 1983. As of 7 September 1998, the GST was replaced by a value-added tax (VAT) with a standard rate of 10%. On 1 July 2001, the standard rate was raised to 12%, and then, as of 7 January 2002, to 15%, where it remained as of 2005. The VAT applies to all goods and services except those specifically exempted. The exempt list includes basic foodstuffs, basic services (medical, hospital and dental), basic utilities (water and electricity), and all exported goods and service.


Mauritius maintains a list of preferred trading partners to which it gives preferential tariff rates. Taxes on imports from the preferred list are levied at 080%. Imports of goods from other countries, at the 55% rate or higher, are subject to an additional 10% duty. A value-added tax (VAT) of 15% is levied on all imports. Vehicles, petroleum, alcohol, cigarettes, and furniture are subject to special excise duties of up to 360%.

Most imports require a license and state enterprises control the import of rice, wheat, flour, petroleum, cement, tea, tobacco, and sugar. There are few export controls, except the need for licenses to export sugar, tea, vegetables, fruits, meat, fish, textiles, pharmaceuticals, gold, live animals, coral, and shells.

Mauritius is a member of the South African Development Community (SADC), whose objective is creation of a free trade area by 2005. The country is also a member of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), which gives preferential rates of duty between member states.


The government offers a variety of investment incentives, including, for industries in the Export Processing Zone, a corporate tax exemption of at least 10 years; an exemption from import duties on capital goods and most raw materials; free repatriation of profits, dividends, and invested capital; and a waiver of income taxes on dividends for 10 years. All foreign investment must obtain approval from the prime minister's office, except in the offshore business center and the stock exchange. Businesses in Freeport receive exemption from company tax and tax on dividends, preferential rates for storage, halved port handling charges, and exemption from import duty and sales tax on finished goods and machinery. Foremost among foreign investors are those from Hong Kong, followed by French, South African, German, and Indian interests.

Foreign ownership of services such as accounting, law, medicine, computer services, international marketing, and management consulting was limited to 30% in 1997. Ownership of investments serving the domestic market was limited to 49%. In December 2000, the Investment Promotion Act was passed, designed to streamline the investment process.

Total foreign direct investment (FDI) was $33 million in 1996. (However, because foreign investors have not been registering with the Central Bank since the abolition of exchange controls in 1994, it is generally cautioned that official statistics underestimate the amount of foreign investment in the country. Not included is the increasingly important offshore financial sector.) In 1997, FDI inflow rose to $56 million, mainly due to investments from South Africa in the banking sector. FDI inflow fell to $12.7 million in 1998, but increased to $55 million in 1999, most investments coming from South Africa. In 2000, FDI inflow reached almost $260 million, mostly due to France Telecom's purchase of a 40% share of Mauritius Telecom as part of their strategic alliance. Most investments in Mauritius's Export Processing Zone (EPZ) have been in low-skilled manufacturing enterprises in textiles, garments, toys, and leather goods.

In the mid-2000s, some leading sectors for investment included: information and communications technology; telecommunications and broadcasting equipment and services; environment and water; pharmaceuticals and medical equipment and supplies; tourism; and financial services.


France has backed training for labor, a stock exchange (which opened under the Stock Exchange Act of 1988), and irrigation projects. The EU is supporting efforts at diversifying agriculture. The Mauritius plan to become an international financial center advanced as liberalized currency rules were put into effect in 1986. In 1995, Mauritius became the 12th member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC). Mauritius intended to invest up to $1.5 billion in infrastructure development projects from 1997 to 2007.

The government is putting effort into information and communications technologies, in an effort to diversify the economy away from its reliance upon sugar, textiles and apparel, and tourism. The government developed a five-year Sugar Sector Strategic Plan for 200105, to restructure the sugar industry, including reducing the labor force and the number of sugar mills in operation. The country's export processing zone firms have sizeable investments in Madagascar's export processing zone, and have been affected by political upheavals there. Nonetheless, growth in Mauritius was strong in the mid-2000s, and social conditions were improving. A rising unemployment rate is a concern, however (the unemployment rate was estimated at 10.5% in 2005). The government has passed anti-money laundering and antiterrorism legislation. With GDP growth rates averaging 56% in the mid-2000s, Mauritius's economic success was reflected in more equitable income distribution, reduced infant mortality rates, increased life expectancy, and greatly-improved infrastructure.


Mauritius has a universal system of pensions that supplements an earnings-related pension system. The universal pension covers all residents, and is financed entirely from government sources. The universal pension pays a fixed sum according to the age of the pensioner. Employee pension benefits are determined by the number of years worked. A program of family allowances assists needy families with more than three children. Employment-related sickness and maternity benefits are provided, as well as worker's compensation and unemployment benefits, rent assistance, and a funeral grant.

The constitution prohibits discrimination based on gender. Although women do not face significant legal discrimination, most remain limited to traditional subordinate roles in the household and in the workplace. Domestic violence is pervasive and is often related to drug and alcohol abuse. The government is strengthening laws to protect women, although most stay with abusive spouses for financial and cultural reasons. The government is committed to promoting the rights of children.

Ethnic tensions exist between majority Hindus and minority Muslims. Human rights are generally respected, but there are reports of the mistreatment of prisoners and suspects.


As of 2004, there were an estimated 85 physicians, 232 nurses, and 13 dentists per 100,000 people. In the same year total health care expenditure was estimated at 3.4% of GDP. In 2000, 100% of the population of Mauritius had access to safe water and 100% had adequate sanitation.

The average life expectancy in Mauritius in 2005 was 72.38 years and the infant mortality rate was 15.03 per 1,000 live births. As of 2002, the crude birth rate and overall mortality rate were estimated at 16.34 and 6.8 per 1,000 people respectively. The maternal mortality rate was 50 per 100,000 live births. As of 2000, 75% of married women (ages 15 to 49) were using contraception.

According to World Health Organization reports, 5.3% of children 36 years of age were anemic. Immunization rates for children up to one year old were: diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, 89%, and measles, 85%. The island of Mauritius has a high prevalence of non-insulin dependent diabetes. Physical inactivity and glucose intolerance through obesity are suggested culprits.

The high rates of coronary heart disease seen in Asian Indians, African-origin Creoles, and Chinese in this rapidly developing country may point to future problems in this region. Most deaths are cardiovascular-disease related.

The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 0.10 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 700 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 100 deaths from AIDS in 2003.


There are three basic types of houses: wattle and daub construction with thatched roofs; galvanized sheet-iron structures; and houses constructed of wood. In 2000, There were 297,671 housing units nationwide. Of these, about 65% were detached houses, 24.5% were semidetached homes or blocks of flats. About 99% of all dwellings were privately owned. Most households have three to five people. About 83.7% of all dwellings have indoor piped water, 99% have electricity, 87.8% have an indoor kitchen, and 74.8% have an indoor bathroom.


Education is free up to college level and is compulsory for six years. The educational system is based largely in the British school system. Primary school covers six years of study. This is followed by seven years of secondary studies (five years lower and two years upper). The academic year runs from August to May.

In 2001, about 87% of children between the ages of four and five were enrolled in some type of preschool program. Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 97% of age-eligible students. The same year, secondary school enrollment was about 74% of age-eligible students. It is estimated that nearly all students complete their primary education. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 25:1 in 2003; the ratio for secondary school was about 20:1. In 2000, private schools accounted for about 23.9% of primary school enrollment and 72.7% of secondary enrollment.

Postsecondary institutions include the University of Mauritius; the University of Technology, Mauritius; the Mauritius College of the Air; the Mauritius Institute of Education; and the Mahatma Gandhi Institute. There are several polytechnical schools and about 30 private organizations that offer tertiary-level programs of study. Many university students study in Europe, India, Australia, and the United States. In 2003, about 15% of the tertiary age population were enrolled in some type of higher education program. The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 84.3%, with 88.2% for men and 80.5% for women.

As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 4.7% of GDP, or 12.1% of total government expenditures.


Libraries include the Mauritius Institute Public Library (75,000 volumes), the Mauritius Archives (36,000), the University of Mauritius Library (100,000), and the Port Louis City Library (110,000). The National Library, located at Port Louis and opened in 2000, has a collection of 230,000 items. The Sugar Industry Research Institute Library maintains a unique collection of 29,870 volumes on all aspects of sugarcane cultivation and manufacture. The Mahatma Gandhi Institute in Moka operates a library as well.

The Mauritius Museums Council operates the Natural History Museums (1880) in Port Louis and in Mahébourg (1950). The Folk Museum of Indian Migration is in Moka at the Mahatma Gandhi Institute. Port Louis is also home to a historical museum and a natural history museum.


All parts of the island are linked by telegraph, telephone, and postal services. In 2003, there were an estimated 285 mainline telephones for every 1,000 people; about 13,500 people were on a waiting list for telephone service installation. Also in 2003, there were approximately 267 mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people.

The state-owned Mauritius Broadcasting Corp. provides radio and television service in French, English, Hindi, and Chinese. In 2001, the government established the Independent Broadcast Authority, which is intended to formulate regulations for private broadcast licenses. The members of the group are primarily representatives of government ministries and the chair is appointed by the prime minister. In 2004, there were three independent, privately owned radio stations in operation. There were no private television stations. In 2003, there were an estimated 379 radios and 299 television sets for every 1,000 people. The same year, there were 116.5 personal computers for every 1,000 people and 123 of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet. There were 19 secure Internet servers in the country in 2004.

There are over a dozen privately owned newspapers across the country. Leading daily newspapers (with 2002 circulations) include L'Express (35,000), Le Mauricien (35,000), The New Nation (15,000), and The Sun (unavailable), each published in Port Louis in both French and English. There are three major Chinese language newspapers.

Free speech and press are constitutionally provided and said to be respected by the government.


There are various commercial and scholarly organizations of the Western type, including the Mauritius Chamber of Commerce and Industry; the Indian Traders' Association; the Mauritius Employers' Federation; The Mauritius Cooperative Agricultural Federation (which had 209 member societies in 1993); and the Mauritius Cooperative Union.

National youth organizations include the Young Socialists, the Mauritius Scout Association, the Mauritius Student Association for the United Nations, the Mauritius Union of Students' Councils, the Mauritius World Federalist Youth, the Mauritius Young Communist League, Junior Chamber, the National Federation of Young Farmers Clubs, and YMCA/YWCA. Several sports associations are active, including those representing such sports as tae kwon do, squash, tennis, yachting, and badminton. The International Council of Hindu Youth also has a base in Mauritius.

The Institute for Consumer Protection, founded in 1983, serves as both a consumer protection agency and as an agency for the promotion of maternal and infant health. International organizations with active chapters in the country include Amnesty International, Caritas, and the Red Cross. The multinational Indian Ocean Commission, founded in 1982, is based in Mauritius.


The government has made efforts to promote upscale tourism and attract visitors from more countries. In addition to the nation's beaches, lagoons, and other scenic sites, tourist attractions include the colonial architecture of Port Louis, an extinct volcano in Curepipe, the fishing port and naval museum at Mahebourg, and the Botanical Gardens at Pamplemousses. Football (soccer) is the national sport. Badminton, volleyball, basketball, tennis, and water sports are also popular. Many of the hotels also have golf facilities.

In 2003, about 702,000 tourists visited Mauritius, of whom 28% came from France. That year there were 9,647 hotel rooms with 19,727 beds and a 63% occupancy rate. Tourist expenditure receipts totaled $946 million.

Visitors must have a valid passport, onward/return ticket, hotel confirmation, and sufficient funds for the stay. All travelers are required to carry a visa except nationals from the United States and most European countries.

In 2005, the US Department of State estimated the cost of staying in Mauritius at $216.


Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam (190085), the first leader of independent Mauritius, was prime minister from 1968 to 1982, when Anerood Jugnauth (b.1930) succeeded him. Jugnauth served as prime minister from 198295, and then again from 200003, when he was named president. Navinchandra Ramgoolam (b.1947), was prime minister from 19952000, and then again beginning in 2005.


Dependencies are the Agalega Islands and the St. Brandon Group.


Allen, Richard B. Slaves, Freedmen, and Indentured Laborers in Colonial Mauritius. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

Bennett, Pramila Ramgulam. Mauritius Collaboration of George John Bennett. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Clio Press, 1992.

Kamoche, Ken M. (ed.). Managing Human Resources in Africa. New York: Routledge, 2004.

Mauritius: Expanding Horizons. Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 1992.

NgCheong-Lum, Roseline. Culture Shock! Mauritius. A Guide to Customs and Etiquette. Singapore: Time Books International, 1997.

Population-Development-Environment: Understanding Their Interactions in Mauritius. Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 1994.

Selvon, Sydney. Historical Dictionary of Mauritius. 2nd ed. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1991.

Vaughan, Megan. Creating the Creole Island: Slavery in Eighteenth-Century Mauritius. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2005.

Zeilig, Leo and David Seddon. A Political and Economic Dictionary of Africa. Philadelphia: Routledge/Taylor and Francis, 2005.

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Republic of Mauritius



Mauritius is an island in the Indian Ocean, located 2,400 kilometers (1,491 miles) off the southeast coast of Africa. It has a total area of 1,860 square kilometers (781 square miles), and a coastline of 177 kilometers (110 miles). The Republic of Mauritius also includes the barely populated Agalega Islands and the Cargados Carajos Shoals, as well as Rodrigues (population 35,000). The capital, Port Louis, is situated on the west coast of the island, and has a population of approximately 136,000.


The population of Mauritius was estimated to be 1,179,368 in July 2000, with a population growth rate at 0.89 percent. The population is relatively young, with 26 percent of the population under 14 years of age, 68 percent between 15 and 64, and just 6 percent over the age of 65. The life expectancy for the population is 70.98.

Mauritian society is a heterogeneous one. The 2 main population groups are the ethnic Indians, who make up 68 percent of the population, and the Creoles, mixed race descendants of African slaves and colonial settlers, who comprise 27 percent. Other groups include Chinese (3 percent) and white Franco-Mauritians (2 percent). The ethnic Indians are further divided into Hindus and Muslims, with the Hindus being the majority. Nevertheless, the inhabitants of the island tend to view themselves as Mauritians first and foremost.

Given that Mauritius has such a small land surface, population growth and immigration are discouraged by the government. Population density is already very high, with 571 people per square kilometer (1,479 per square mile), compared with an average of 45 per square kilometer (117 per square mile) for the world as a whole.


From the 17th century, the Mauritian economy depended almost exclusively on sugar. Slaves were imported from Africa to work on the sugar plantations. After the abolition of slavery in the 19th century, plantations came to rely more on indentured Indian labor, whose ancestors today form the largest portion of the islands' population.

By the 1960s, Mauritius was still a monocultural economy (dependent on a single crop), and had to import many goods for local consumption. Unemployment was high, which created social tensions. In the mid-1960s, the Mauritian government began to follow a 2-pronged strategy of import substitution and export-oriented development.

Import substitution was promoted through the use of high tariff barriers to protect local industry from overseas competition. To encourage the production of goods for export, Export Processing Zones (EPZs) were established in 1971, following the successful Taiwanese model. The principle behind EPZs was to import semi-finished goods duty -free, to complete the manufacturing process in the EPZs, and then to re-export these goods. Clothing and textiles were the main manufactures produced by the EPZ sector.

The EPZ sector grew rapidly since its inception and attracted large amounts of foreign investment. This allowed for the rapid industrialization of the country. Nowadays, only 25 percent of export earnings come from sugar, while 40 percent are derived from manufacturing. Over the past twenty years, the economy has consistently achieved high rates of growth, resulting in a quadrupling of GDP per capita between 1970 and 1997. According to the World Bank, the economy of Mauritius has sustained a growth rate of about 5.5 percent since independence in 1968, and the country is currently classified among middle-income earners.

Besides manufacturing and sugar, the nation's other important economic sectors are tourism and financial services. With its white sands, coral reefs, and subtropical climate, Mauritius is an island paradise for tourists. Visitors come mainly from Europe and from South Africa.The hospitable nature of the Mauritian people also contributes to the island's attraction.

The island of Rodrigues has not seen the same level of development as Mauritius haswhich is perhaps not so surprising when one considers that the 2 islands are 600 kilometers (373 miles) apart. Subsistence agriculture is the main economic activity on Rodrigues, with the principal crop being maize instead of sugarcane.

By the late 1990s in Mauritius, only about 5 percent of the population was living below the poverty line. However, challenges such as tariff reductions, rising wages, and limited growth prospects for the almost-saturated tourism industry have contributed to an increase in unemployment on the island, which in mid-2000 stood at 8 percent. This is rather disturbing for a country that had had full employment only a few years before.

A major factor which should not be overlooked in Mauritius's success is the political climate, which is characterized by stability and ethnic tolerance. Ordinary Mauritians have also demonstrated a strong work ethic, which has resulted in a highly productive labor force .

The debt levels both in terms of GDP and exports are manageable, hence Mauritius is not considered a highly indebted country. In June 1999, external debt was around 30 percent of GDP. There is a healthy balance between local and foreign debt positions, with local debt comprising over 80 percent of total public debt and the residual being foreign.

With respect to donor assistance, the World Bank notes that, due to the country's access to capital markets, official development assistance has declined considerably since 1990 and has become increasingly selective. Although donor assistance is important to supplement private capital flows, Mauritius is not dependent on foreign aid.


Mauritius earned its independence from Britain in 1968, which had controlled the islands since 1810, and the Mauritians have continued to follow the British model of government. Mauritius is a parliamentary democracy based on the Westminster model, with elections being held once every 5 years. There is a 66-seat National Assembly, 62 of whose members are elected by direct popular vote, while 4 are appointed to represent minority interest. The National Assembly elects the president, who in turn selects the prime minister.

Although Mauritius is in general a peaceful society, its politics are somewhat capricious. In spite of the small size of the country, there are a fair number of political parties. Most governments over the past twenty years have been coalitions, comprising 2 or more political parties. The major political parties are the Militant Movement of Mauritius (MMM), the Mauritian Social Democrat Party (PMSD), the Mauritian Labor Party (MLP), and the Militant Socialist Movement (MSM). Voting is based to a certain extent along ethnic lines. Although there are few significant differences among the major parties, the MMM tends to be more socialist in outlook and is favored especially by the Creoles, while the MLP's support-base is mainly Indian.

The elections in September 2000 resulted in a victory for an alliance of Anerood Jugnauth's Militant Socialist Movement and Paul Bérenger's Militant Movement of Mauritius. The alliance ousted Navin Ramgoolam's Mauritian Labor Party, which had gained power in 1995. Jugnauth, in power from 1982-1995, presided over the country's transformation from dependence on sugar to a modern, diversified economy. The MSM/MMM alliance has promised to tackle corruption and mismanagement of public finances (said to be the downfall of the Labor Party), but otherwise will continue with broadly similar policies to those implemented. The voter participation rate in the 2000 elections was high, with over 80 percent of registered voters turning up at the polls.

Taxation in Mauritius is relatively low, with tax revenue comprising only 17.7 percent of GDP in 1998. The highest income tax rate for individuals is 25 percent (recently reduced from 30 percent), while the corporate rate is 15 percent for manufacturing companies. Special tax incentives are available to certain kinds of companies, notably those classified as "offshore businesses" and those locating in the Export Processing Zone.


Infrastructure in Mauritius is well-developed. Roads are maintained in very good condition, with 1,834 kilometers (1,139 miles) out of a total of 1,910 kilometers (1,186 miles) of roads being paved. As of the year 2000, the road system is sufficient to hold the country's traffic volume. Less than one-tenth of the population own cars. Meanwhile, several road projects have been planned such as the extension of the roadway from Nouvelle France to Plaine Magnien, the implementation of the South Eastern Highway Project, and the construction of bypasses in areas such as Flacqs, Goodlands, and Triolet. There are no railways in Mauritius. Public transport by bus is reliable and efficient, however.

The harbor of Port Louis was provided with extra capacity in the late 1990s and has been repositioned to handle high traffic and goods volume. The country operates an efficient freeport, which handles about R9 billion worth of trade per year. In volume terms, this is estimated at around 13,000 tons. Mauritius aims to become a major transshipment center, given its location between Africa, Asia, and Australia.

There are currently 5 airports, with 2 of them having paved runways. The main airlines flying to and from Mauritius are Air Mauritius (the national carrier), British Airways, Air France, and South African Airways.

The country has a modernized telecommunications infrastructure. This will be further upgraded with the forging of a partnership with French Telecom. The latter took up a 40 percent (R6.6 billion) shareholding in the local Mauritius Telecoms in the year 2000. This public-private partnership is the first step towards a full liberalization of the industry, in accordance with standards set out by the WTO reform plan of the sector by 2004.

Internet access is reasonably widespread. At present the country has only 6 Internet providers, and over 534 Internet hosts. Countrywide, Internet use is available to about 40,000 people.

Mauritius is a net importer of oil and petroleum. These imports are in refined form and come through the State Trading Corporation. Despite its lack of natural resources, Mauritius is adequately provided for in terms of electricity. About 25 percent of its electricity is derived

Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
Mauritius 75 368 226 N/A 53 24.5 87.1 4.56 55
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
South Africa 32 317 125 N/A 56 3.5 47.4 33.36 1,820
Zimbabwe 19 93 30 N/A 4 N/A 9.0 1.19 20
aData are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
bData are from the Internet Software Consortium ( and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

from hydro-electricity schemes, and the rest from a combination of diesel-powered thermal stations and burning bagasse (sugarcane residue). For its energy, the country is dependent on supplies afforded by the government parastatal called the Central Electricity Board. Electricity production in the late 1990s stood at 34 million kilowatt-hours.

The government is currently looking for substitutive methods of generating energy using woody bio-mass, ethanol from sugarcane, and solar, wind, and sea wave power. Elsewhere efforts are in progress in the development of a renewable fuel plant near Port Louis. Commercial energy is derived from electricity (10.5 percent), coal (5.4 percent) and oil-derived products (84.1 percent).


The importance of agriculture in the Mauritian economy has been declining over the past 3 decades. Agriculture made up 16 percent of GDP in 1970, declining to 12 percent in 1980, and finally to 9 percent in 1998. This reflects the decreasing dependence of Mauritius on sugar. Furthermore, the share of the labor force in agriculture is much smaller now than it was twenty years ago29 percent of males and 30 percent of females worked in the sector in 1980, while only 15 percent of males and 13 percent of females did so in 1998. The industry is plagued by excess labor demand. According to reports by the Mauritius Cooperative Agricultural Federation, the reasons are that young unemployed people are not eager to work in the fields, and the population is aging.

Industry comprised 33 percent of GDP in 1998, up from 26 percent in 1980. More significantly, 25 percent of GDP came from manufacturing in 1998, compared with 15 percent in 1980. Much of this growth can be attributed to the expansion of the Export Processing Zone sector. The percentage of the male labor force working in industry has increased significantly, from 19 percent (1980) to 39 percent (1992-97). The increase has not been so large for females, however40 percent in 1980 to 43 percent over the period 1992-97. This may in part reflect a diversification away from the textile industry, which tends to employ more females, towards more hightech industries such as information technology.

Services made up 62 percent of GDP in 1980, but declined to 58 percent in 1998. The proportion of men working in the service sector has not changed much46 percent in 1992-97, down from 47 percent in 1980. More females are now working in the service sector, however 45 percent in 1992-97, compared with 31 percent in 1980.



Sugarcane is still the dominant crop, extending over 90 percent of the cultivated land surface of the country. Twenty-five percent of export earnings come from sugar cane. Per annum sugar production amounts to approximately 630,000 tons. Due to a bad drought, this figure shrunk to 580,000 tons in 1999. As a result the agricultural sector as a whole registered a growth rate of minus 25 percent during this year. The government stepped in to help assist sugar farmers badly hit by low harvest in 1999. It provided a grant of R5,000 per hectare to farmers who experienced losses due to drought and paid a premium for sugar purchase. Mauritius is prone to recurrent cyclonic weather, which can impact the sugarcane crop, and consequently economic growth.

Other sources of export revenue in the agricultural sector include tea, coffee, and tobacco. Tea production and exports decreased dramatically over the period 1995-2000, however. The production of onions, potatoes, maize, poultry, cattle, fish, pulses, bananas, and venison occurs on a small scale, largely for local consumption. Government is also supporting the development of biotechnology and hydroponics.


Mauritius's so-called "economic miracle" is largely due to the growth of the manufacturing sector since the inception of the EPZs. The EPZs attracted significant investment from abroad as foreign companies looked for cheaper locations for production. The reduction in unemployment experienced by Mauritius over the last 20 years can generally be attributed to the rapid growth of the EPZs.

The EPZs offer duty-free imports, lower tax rates, subsidized rates on electricity and other utilities, access to credit, favorable transport costs, and institutional support facilities.

Clothing and textiles still form the mainstay of Mauritian industry and dominate the EPZ sector. Mauritian clothing and textiles are competitive, both in terms of price and quality, in foreign markets such as Europe, United States, Japan, Australia, South Africa, and Scandinavian countries.

Growth in the EPZ sector has been slowing since the early 1990s, however, in terms of employment, new investment, and the number of enterprises operating in the sector. Most of the capital in the EPZs is now locally-owned, reflecting declining foreign interest. This is partly due to the fact that wages have risen as a result of full employment, and this in turn has pushed up production costs. Many Mauritian clothing and textile companies are re-locating to cheaper production locations, notably to the nearby island of Madagascar, with which it shares a common language (French) and, to some extent, culture. The focus is also shifting towards high fashion garments as competition in the global market becomes stiffer.

The Mauritian government is also trying to promote a shift towards more high-tech industries, such as electronics, software development, and light engineering. As of the late 1990s, however, Mauritius had not been able to attract the level of foreign investment into these sectors that it had been hoping for. Other industries in Mauritius include food processing (mostly sugar milling), chemicals, metal products, transport equipment, and non-electrical machinery.



Tourism is a big foreign exchange earner for Mauritius, which has marketed itself as an "exclusive" destination. About 5 percent of GDP is derived from the tourism sector, and revenues currently amount to US$100 million per annum. Most visitors come from Europe 66 percent of the marketwith France and the UK providing 175,400 and 58,700 tourists, respectively. Africa's market share is 27 percent, with tourists coming mainly from South Africa and Reunion Island. About 17,111 people are employed in the tourism sector, 65 percent of these in the hotel industry. There are signs that growth in this sector is slowing: in 1999 the sector grew by just 6 percent, compared to double-digit figures prior to that.


Over the past few years, the financial services sector has really stepped up its role in the economy, partly due to government support of the industry. To stimulate the development of the financial sector, the government provides tax incentives for financial institutions under the Pioneer Financial Services Scheme. To date, the industry has grown by over 62 percent, and comprises 13 percent of GDP. The aim is to develop the sector as a major financial center of international repute. Currently there are eleven offshore banks , which offer merchant banking, insurance, fund management, and securities services. Non-residents are the main customers of this sector, often U.S. companies with investments in India. A tax treaty between Mauritius and India creates tax advantages to companies with investments in India that channel their funds through Mauritius.


In early 2001, the government set out its National Information Technology Strategy Plan of establishing the information technology sector as a free trade zone with "digital parks." These parks will consist mainly of sophisticated telecommunications and IT infrastructure as well as enabling hassle-free access to the Internet. According to this plan, it is estimated that IT-penetration will increase to 50 percent and increase PC home ownership to 40 percent by 2005. The government still has to unveil its proposed package of financial incentives that will be offered in this regard.


Being a small island economy with few natural resources, trade is extremely important for Mauritius. Trade comprised 80 percent of GDP in 1970, increasing to 130 percent in 1998.

Mauritius's main export markets are the European Union (notably the United Kingdom, France, and Germany)

Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Mauritius
Exports Imports
1975 .298 .330
1980 .431 .609
1985 .436 .523
1990 1.194 1.618
1995 1.538 1.976
1998 1.734 2.183
SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.

and the United States. Its imports come mainly from South Africa, India, the European Union, and China.


Up to the year 2000, Mauritius's major exports, sugar and textiles, have benefitted substantially from preferential trade agreements under which exports from Mauritius face lower duties than those goods from other countries. Most of Mauritius's sugar is now exported to the European Union (EU) under the Sugar Protocol of the Lomé Convention, which allows the country an export quota of 300,000 metric tons, at a price which is generally quite a lot higher than that paid on the world market. Mauritian textiles have also benefitted from preferential access to EU markets, and from the Multi-Fibre Agreement.

However, the Lomé Convention expired in 2000, and the EU has decided to level access to its markets for developing countries, which will erode the preferential treatment received by former EU colonies such as Mauritius. The annual quota assigned to the African, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) countries will now be reduced and it is expected that the price received for sugar exports will also fall. This move is expected to hit Mauritius hard, as it is among the top 3 sugar exporters to the EU.

The Multi-Fibre Agreement is being phased out and will come to an end in 2005. The agreement works on a bilateral quota system designed both to protect clothing and textile manufacturers in developed countries and facilitate market access for developing countries. The impact on Mauritius will depend on whether the developed countries continue to try to protect their textile industries. In any event, the termination of the Multi-Fibre Agreement (MFA) is expected to result in intensified global competition in the clothing and textiles industries. As mentioned above, Mauritian clothing and textile companies are already moving to cheaper production locations in order to enhance their competitiveness. The U.S.'s Africa Growth and Opportunities Act is expected to benefit the Mauritian clothing and textile industry, and may mitigate the impact of the phasing out of the MFA.

In the 1970s, Mauritius followed a policy of import substitution, which involved protecting certain domestic industries from outside competition by keeping tariffs at high levels. This policy reduced the country's reliance on outside imports. However, following the global trend, Mauritius began to open up its markets for imports in the 1980s. Mauritius is a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), and is therefore committed to certain WTO agreements, designed to promote free trade among nations. Mauritius is a member of the Common Market of Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the Southern African Development Community (SADC), and the Indian Ocean Commission.


The country's central bank is the Bank of Mauritius, while the commercial banking system is dominated by 2 banks, the Mauritius Commercial Bank and the State Bank of Mauritius. There are a number of other, smaller, banks in operation, however. There is an extensive ATM network across the island, and ATM-sharing mechanisms are now in place. Progress has also been made with regard to developing a better, electronically-based, national payment system.

The Mauritian Rupee has decreased in the value relative to the U.S. dollar, with the decline being fairly marked over the period 1996-98, where it depreciated by an average of 10.5 percent per year. There have been no dramatic devaluations or currency crises in the history of the country, however. Inflation , too, has remained at manageable levels, averaging 7.6 percent between 1990 and 1999.

There are no exchange controls in Mauritius, which means that both foreigners and locals can take an unlimited amount of money out of the country if they wish to do so.

The Stock Exchange of Mauritius (SEM) has been in operation since 1989. Its market capitalization is currently around US$1,643 million, with 48 listed companies. There are a further 80 companies listed on the "overthe-counter"

Exchange rates: Mauritius
Mauritian rupees per US$1
Jan 2001 27.900
2000 26.250
1999 25.186
1998 22.993
1997 21.057
1996 17.948
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].
GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Mauritius 1,531 1,802 2,151 2,955 4,034
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
South Africa 4,574 4,620 4,229 4,113 3,918
Comoros N/A 499 544 516 403
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.

market. The trading activity taking place has increased substantially over the years, although it is still low by international standards.


All Mauritians have benefitted from the country's prolonged economic growth, particularly from the significant reduction in unemployment. A 1992 national survey found that 10.6 percent of the population was living below the poverty line. World Bank estimates put the poverty rate in 1999 at about 5 percent, however. These figures are difficult to compare across countries, since different countries have different definitions of poverty. Primary school enrolment is now close to 100 percent, up from 79 percent in 1980. Education and health care are free, and all Mauritians have access to safe water and sanitation. Life expectancy has also increased from 66 years in 1980 to 71 in 1998. According to the CIA World Factbook, life expectancy is now 75 years for females and 67 years for males.

However, poverty and wealth are still delineated to some extent along racial lines. Descendants of the French plantation owners still control a major portion of the economy, in spite of the fact that they only comprise 2 percent of the population. The Creoles, on the other hand, are the ethnic group which faces the greatest hardships. The recent increase in unemployment may rekindle the racial tensions which seemed to disappear during Mauritius's prosperous years.


Trade unions are permitted in Mauritius and trade union membership stood at 106,000 in 1995, representing about 29 percent of wage and salary earners. Trade union activity has decreased as the population has become wealthier and unemployment has declined. Over the period 1990-1995, there were between 4 and 9 strikes annually.

The steady rise in unemployment between 1996 and 1999 signifies that much still has to be done to improve the skills profile of the workforce. As of 2000, the demand for skilled workers outstripped the supply, especially in fields such as marketing, management, accounting, and computing.

Women make up about 27 percent workforce, a relatively low proportion by international standards, although female labor force participation has increased since 1980. Women earn on average about half of what their male counterparts earn. The state provides welfare payments for the unemployed, and there is a social aid scheme for poor families. There is also a national pension scheme.


1510. Portuguese visit Mauritius, then an uninhabited island.

1598. Dutch settle on the island, introducing sugar cane.

1710. Dutch leave the island for the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa.

1715. French occupy the island. The building of the harbor of Port Louis, which then becomes the capital, takes place.

Household Consumption in PPP Terms
Country All food Clothing and footwear Fuel and power a Health care b Education b Transport & Communications Other
Mauritius 21 8 13 3 13 10 32
United States 13 9 9 4 6 8 51
South Africa N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Comoros N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Data represent percentage of consumption in PPP terms.
aExcludes energy used for transport.
bIncludes government and private expenditures.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

1810. British conquer the island.

1814. Mauritius formally ceded to the British in the Treaty of Paris. However, most of the French settlers remain on the island and are allowed to keep their customs, religions, and laws. The French plantation aristocracy retain their economic prominence and few British people come to the colony.

1835. Britain abolishes slavery (slaves had mainly come from Madagascar, Senegal, and Mozambique), amid much resistance from French plantation owners. This leads to importation of about 500,000 Indian indentured laborers to work in the sugar cane fields. The rapid development of infrastructure takes place and the British begin to provide free primary education.

1860s. The sugar economy begins to decline, due to increased sugar production in other countries and resultant lower prices. The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 shifts trade routes away from the Indian Ocean.

1917. Indenture system formally ends.

1959. First elections under universal suffrage are held.

1968. Mauritius achieves independence. The country adopts a constitution based on British parliamentary system. A few weeks before independence, violence between Creoles and Muslims leaves 25 people dead and hundreds injured.

1970. Enactment of the Export Processing Zones Act.

1971. The Militant Movement of Mauritius (MMM) calls a number of debilitating strikes. A coalition government led by the Mauritius Labor Party (MLP; headed by Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam) promulgates the Public Order Act which bans many forms of political activity. A state of emergency lasts until 1976.

1982. MMM-led government gains power in elections, with Anerood Jugnauth as Prime Minister and Paul Bérenger as Finance Minister.

1983. Ruling coalition breaks up and new elections are held. Jugnauth's new party, the Militant Socialist Movement (MSM), joins with the MLP and the Mauritian Social Democrat Party to win the election comfortably.

1991. A coalition between the MSM and MMM wins the elections.

1992. The constitution is amended to make Mauritius a republic with the British Commonwealth.

2000. Anerood Jugnauth is reelected president as head of a coalition between the MSM and MMM.


The World Bank notes that Mauritius faces several challenges in the near future due to rising unemployment and increasing external competition for export markets. These are: to improve the economic growth rate through higher productivity, to raise skill levels through better education, to encourage investment in new industries, and to reform the civil service. Reform of the education system in particular is a priority, since an increasing number of young people are entering the job market without the requisite qualifications. At the same time, the government is focusing on small and medium-sized enterprises as a strategy for promoting economic growth and unemployment.

The recent setback in economic growth has spurred an internal campaign against poverty on the island, resulting in the establishment of the Mauritius Trust Fund. The Trust will use its US$1.5 million budget to fund over 270 projects across the island and also in the neighboring Rodrigues Island. These projects are directed at infrastructure, education, social cohesion through social and cultural programs, as well as coordination of different programs of action. Also, the combined efforts of the Mauritian Women and Family Welfare Ministry are spreading a message to women to end poverty through education.

For business, however, the mood is optimistic. It is estimated that close to 53 percent of the population expects the volume of production and services to increase in the year 2001, according to local surveys.


Mauritius has no territories or colonies.


Businessmap. SADC Investor Survey: Complex Terrain. Johannesburg, South Africa: Businessmap, 2000.

Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile: Mauritius. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 2001.

International Labor Organization. World Labor Report. Geneva, Switzerland: ILO, 1997.

Library of Congress. Mauritius: A Country Study. <>. Accessed August 2001.

Maurinet. "Mauritian History."<>. Accessed August 2001.

"Mauritius: Overview." Mbendi: Information for Africa. <>. Accessed August 2001.

Pochun, Jairaz. "Policies to Facilitate Trade and Investment inSouthern Africa." In International Monetary Fund/Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Regional Economic Integration and the Globalisation Process. Windhoek, Namibia: Gamsberg Macmillan, 1998.

South African National Treasury. Regional Economic Review. Pretoria, South Africa: FISCU, 2000.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2000. <>. Accessed August 2001.

U.S. Department of State. FY 1998 Country Commercial Guide: Mauritius. <>. Accessed August 2001.

World Bank. The World Bank Group Countries: Mauritius. <>. Accessed August 2001.

Rosalind Mowatt


Port Louis.


Mauritian rupee (R). One Mauritian rupee equals 100 cents. There are coins of 1, 2, 5, 10, 25, and 50 cents and 1 rupee, and notes of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, and 1,000.


Clothing and textiles, sugar, cut flowers, molasses.


Manufactured goods, capital equipment, foodstuffs, petroleum products, chemicals.


US$12.3 billion (purchasing power parity, 1999 est.).


Exports: US$1.7 billion (f.o.b., 1999). Imports: US$2.1 billion (c.i.f., 1999).

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Major City:
Port Louis, Curepipe

Other Cities:
Beau Bassin-Rose Hill, Mahébourg, Pamplemousses, Quatre Bornes, Vacoas-Phoenix


This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report dated July 1993. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at for the most recent information available on travel to this country.


Although comparable to the neighboring island of Madagascar, the country of MAURITIUS defies precise classification. It is not African, although it lies close to that continent and seeks regional ties with itnor can the island be considered Asian, notwithstanding the obvious Indian and Chinese influence. And, despite more than 300 years of European colonial domination, Mauritius is definitely not European.

When Portuguese navigators first visited Mauritius in the 15th century, they found the island completely uninhabited. The Dutch came during the 17th century and named it for Prince Maurice of Nassau. The French renamed the island Île de France after settling here in 1715, and it became an important stop on the way to India. The French also introduced sugarcane cultivation, importing African slaves to work on the plantations. After the British captured the island in 1810, its Dutch name was restored, and laborers were brought from India.

Unlike Madagascar, no ethnic group is indigenous to the island. The ancestors of the present inhabitants, therefore, considered themselves to be Franco-, Indo-, Anglo-, or Sino-Mauritians. Today Mauritius remains a unique blend of many cultures.


Port Louis

Port Louis, capital of Mauritius and its largest city, lies at sea level on the northwestern coast, within a semicircle of mountains. It is one of the oldest towns on the island, and the center of industry and trade.

During the 16th and 17th centuries, the French, Dutch, and British vied for Mauritius as a port of call. After the French East India Company took possession in 1715, a settlement was established at Port Louis, which was named for the French king, Louis XIV. It served as an important naval base for French operations against the British.

Since the 18th century, Port Louis harbor has been the center of commercial activity. The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, however, considerably reduced the importance of Mauritius' position on the trade route around the Cape of Good Hope. When the Suez Canal was closed between 1967 and 1975, the harbor of Port Louis was again heavily used. In 1974, more than 1,200 ships were loaded and unloaded in Port Louis, compared to an average of 700 a year before the canal was closed. Since World War II, Mauritius has become a communications center on the air route between Australia and South Africa.

About 165,000 people live in Port Louis. In the late 1860s, malaria hit the low-lying areas and was responsible for the town's decline and the exodus of its wealthier inhabitants to the uplands. Although malaria has now been eradicated, Europeans and foreigners continue to live in the residential areas surrounding the Curepipe Plateau.

Port Louis has a new Legislative Assembly building and a government center flanking its stately 18th-century Government House. A university, founded in 1965, is also located here in the capital.


Almost all Mauritian educational institutions follow British lines, except for the French Government-supported Labourdonnais Lycée and Colleges. Primary education (grades one through six, or up to age 11 or 12) and secondary education (to completion of exams) are distinctly divided.

Pupils earn ordinary-level (equivalent to the U.S. high school diploma) and advanced-level (college preparatory) Cambridge School certificates. The official language of instruction is English, and most textbooks are printed in the United Kingdom. In actuality, however, a large part of classroom instruction and explanation is in French/Creole, the common language of most Mauritians.

For primary-school children, the Catholic-run Loreto Convent Schools, located at various places on the island, are popular and offer primarily English-language instruction. The small, nondenominational Alexandra House School in Vacoas more closely resembles an English grammar school; resident Americans have used Alexandra House frequently, and have found that the small classes and lack of spoken Creole allow an easier environment in which U.S. children can adjust.

Boys of secondary-school age attend Royal College (Curepipe and Port Louis), St. Esprit in Quatre Bornes, and St. Joseph's in Curepipe, all of which have good academic reputations. St. Esprit is Catholic, and Royal College is Mauritian administered. For girls, several Loreto Convent Schools and Queen Elizabeth College in Rose Hill are available; all have good standards and are considered the best of their type on the island.

Facilities at these schools are adequate, but not modern. Books and materials are either available at the schools or can be purchased locally. Uniforms, required at all except the French school, are available locally at reasonable prices. Physical education and other special interest classes are available. Few, if any, schools on the island have buses or lunchrooms.

Generally, U.S. children with experience in only English-language environments have been able to adjust to the Mauritian system of education. The fact that French and Creole are widely spoken in the schools requires a period of adjustment, but also presents an excellent opportunity to experience new languages.

Examination results on the General Certificate of Education (GCE) Cambridge exams among the island's school population are low (50 percent with passing scores). This may be attributed to overcrowding and a lack of well-trained teachers. Although the standard of education in Mauritius has declined in recent years, it is still sufficiently high to allow equivalent transfers to most other school systems. To compensate for deficiencies, students can easily arrange for private tutoring for a nominal fee. The Cambridge and baccalaureate certificates are recognized worldwide.


Few places in the world offer more beautiful beaches or better opportunities for swimming. There is no danger from sharks in most areas, since the island is largely surrounded by a coral reef which encloses lagoons of brilliant, clear blue water. Mauritius is known as a skin diver's paradise; the variety of its underwater life is unparalleled. The sea is exceptionally rich in fauna and in historic shipwrecks. Collectors will discover many rare species of seashells found only in Mauritius. Surfing is popular at Tamarin Bay on the west coast, where Indian Ocean swells break on one of the island's most beautiful sandy beaches. Facilities for water-skiing are available at reasonable prices at all resort hotels on the bay. Many people own their own boats and equipment. Good swimming and sports activities are offered by beach hotels, including La Pirogue, St. Geran, and the Touessrok, which has its own private island.

It is possible to fish with a rod and line almost anywhere on the island. Every coastal village has fishermen whose picturesque pirogues can be hired with motor or sail for a small fee. Several world records are held in Mauritius, and deep-sea boats based at Morne Brabant Hotel offer big-game fishing at reasonable prices. The private Morne Anglers' Club has its headquarters at Black River on the southwest side of the island. The Grand Baie Yacht Club and the Morne Anglers' Club organize class sailing races. The visitor may rent dinghies at Le Morne and Le Chaland hotels. Both places have ample water and good sea breezes. Pirogues can be built inexpensively, and sailing craft are sometimes sold.

Mauritius has beautiful mountains and forests, perfect for hiking. The cliffs on the south coast of the island are magnificent, and offer seemingly endless opportunities for walking and picnicking.

There is an 18-hole golf course at the Gymkhana Club, the former British naval station, at Vacoas. Le Morne, St. Geran, and Trou-aux-Biches hotels also have courses in delightful settings close to the ocean. Tennis is played almost all year, and includes lawn tennis and hard-court championships. A squash court, swimming, and a clubhouse with bar and dining room are available at the Gymkhana Club.

The horse racing season lasts from May to October. The Mauritius Turf Club, founded in 1812, is the oldest racing club south of the equator. Local race horses have been imported from the U.K., France, Australia, and South Africa; stables are reinforced by new arrivals every year.

Riding instruction (in French) is available at Club Hippique d'Île Maurice in Floreal. Jumping events are held here several times a year. Riding dress requires jodhpurs or breeches, except that children ordinarily ride in jeans or slacks and a hunt cap. Le Chaland Hotel gives private riding lessons with English instruction.

Association football (soccer) is the national sport. Basketball, tennis, hockey, and volleyball are played in the schools and at various sports clubs on the island.

The island has many beautiful gardens with statues of Mauritians renowned for their political and literary achievements. Some of the most spectacular scenery is on the southern coast. It is pleasant to drive along the coastal road and stop to dine or swim at either Le Morne Hotel on the southwest coast or Le Chaland on the southeast. At La Nicoliere reservoir, on the far side of Long Mountain, there is a view of the entire north and east coastline and its many small, picturesque fishing villages. Europe, Australia, or Africa are only hours away by regularly scheduled flights, but fares are expensive.

The Mauritius Institute Museum is located just behind the docks in Port Louis. It has a small collection on natural history which describes the zoology and geology of the region, including the dodo bird, last seen alive on the island in 1681. The Sugar Institute, where important world sugar research is conducted, is just outside of the capital, as is the Mahatma Gandhi Institute for Hindu culture, an endowment of the Indian Government.

Lists of hotels and their rates may be obtained through the Mauritius Government Tourist Office, Cerné House, La Chaussée, Port Louis, Mauritius. Arrangements for visits to sugar plantations and mills, and information on museums are available here.

Other possibilities for exploring the island include visits to Casela Bird Park, in the southwest, with its 142 species of birds and its lovely scenery; the aquarium in the north, near the Trou-aux-Biches Hotel; and the volcano at Trou aux Cerfs on the central plateau.

Mauritius has a few good restaurants and nightclubs. The resort hotels have bars and bands, and there is dancing at least once a week. Hotels show old English-language movies on a rotating schedule, and a few movie theaters show French-language films, although these rarely are dubbed in English. The Gymkhana Club, however, does have English or American films from time to time. Several amateur theater clubs offer occasional productions, and dances and balls for charitable purposes are held frequently. Curepipe and a number of the resort hotels have casinos.

For the most part, social entertaining is done in the home. The few organized activities center around private clubs, where membership can be obtained without difficulty. Dues are reasonable, and no particular dress restrictions are imposed, except that whites are preferred for tennis and English saddles and attire are used for riding.


Curepipe is a commercial town and health resort, about 15 miles up the central plateau from Port Louis. Among its many attractions are the municipal gardens; several interesting colonial buildings; casinos; and an extinct volcano at Trou aux Cerfs, just outside of town. The current population of Curepipe is close to 74,200.

The Hotel Continental, rising above a street-level arcade of shops, is spacious and quiet, and one of the popular spots for foreigners in the city. Most social activity, however, centers around private clubs or the home. Minibus tours of the countryside can be arranged in Curepipe; a 50-mile trip southward through Souillac and Rose Hill, with side trips on foot and by taxi, is quite inexpensive.


The Lycée Labourdonnais, a French Government-supported primary school (kindergarten through grade five), follows the French educational system. All instruction is in that language. Labourdonnais maintains high standards and is an excellent school for children who either speak, or wish to learn, French.

Labourdonnais College is the secondary division of the French school, and offers the baccalaureate certificate, which is equivalent to, or higher than, a high school diploma. The school is coeducational, of high standard, and all classes and books are in French.

St. Joseph's College and Royal College are boys' schools for secondary-level students. St. Joseph's is administered by the Catholic Brothers of Ireland, who also run schools in the U.S. under the name of Christian Brothers. Teaching standards at both institutions are good.


BEAU BASSIN-ROSE HILL , with a population of approximately 94,000, is the second largest settlement in Mauritius. Beau Bassin and Rose Hill were once separate communities, but merged several years ago. The town is a marketing and shopping center and is the home of the British Council Library.

MAHÉBOURG (population approximately 14,000) lies on the southeast coast of the island, diametrically across from Port Louis. Once the main port, Mahébourg is of interest to those who enjoy sailing ships. The Historical Museum, housed in an old mansion, is also located here; visits are free, but donations are requested.

PAMPLEMOUSSES is a town 20 miles northeast of Port Louis, known for its beautiful Royal Botanical Gardens. The gardens were founded in 1768 by Pierre Poivre, a pirate, who brought spice trees such as cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg to the island from the East Indies. There are also several varieties of palms and water lilies500 woody plant species in alland animals such as deer and tortoise.

QUATRE BORNES , with a population of about 71,000 (2000 estimate) is an independently administered city in the western highlands of Mauritius, nine miles from the capital. The city's French name, meaning Four Boundaries, comes from the stones that once marked the limits of four sugar estates in the area. Sugarcane is still a major crop here. A middle-class, fast-growing, urban city, Quatre Bornes has a large hospital and surfaced roads. Its municipal infrastructure includes a town council.

Located roughly 10 miles south of Port Louis, VACOAS-PHOENIX were two separate villages until they merged in 1963. The town has several small industries such as vegetable canning, beer brewing, and garment manufacturing. Sugarcane and vegetables are grown in areas surrounding Vacoas-Phoenix and are often sold here. A major highway links Vacoas-Phoenix and Port Louis. The estimated population in 2000 was approximately 91,200.


Geography and Climate

The beautiful island of Mauritius, almost completely surrounded by coral reefs, lies in the southwest Indian Ocean just within the Tropic of Capricorn, about 1,250 miles from the African coast. Of volcanic origin, it is about 40 miles long and 30 miles wide, with an area of 720 square miles. In the center, an extensive plateau rises to a level of some 1,900 feet. Three mountain ranges border the central tableland.

Mauritius has a maritime climate, with a slight difference between tropical summer and subtropical winter. In contrast, the coastal areas are warm and dry, while cool and rainy weather prevails inland. Humidity is high, and the annual rainfall along the western slopes of the central plateau totals nearly 200 inches. The rainy and dry seasons are not well-defined, and the vegetation remains green throughout the year. Mildew is a year-round problem, particularly in summer. Cyclones threaten between November and April.


The island's population is estimated at slightly more than one million. It is one of the most densely populated agricultural areas in the world, with 1,597 persons per square mile (2000 estimate). The population growth rate of about three percent a year in the early 1960s has declined, and was 0.88 percent in 2001. 26 percent of the total population is under 15. The labor force was approximately 514,000. With some encouragement from the government, emigration from Mauritius is increasing. Job opportunities in Arab countries also are attracting more Mauritian workers each year.

The ethnic composition of Mauritius resulted from the historical needs of the sugar industry, which dominates the local economy. Some 27 percent of the people are Creoledescendants of Europeans and African slaves who were the first to exploit the island's potential. The Creoles are mainly clerical, commercial, and professional workers, and are usually urban or coastal dwellers. Indo-Mauritians now comprise 68 percent of the population; they are the descendants of indentured Indian labor brought to Mauritius to work in the sugar fields after slavery was abolished in 1833. They live mostly in the countryside and are still the main labor source in the sugar industry. Most Muslim Indians have become traders and industrial workers. About three percent of the population are Chinese, a group primarily engaged in retail trade. The 20,000 whites, nearly all Franco-Mauritian, are the elite. They own most of the sugar estates and many of the large commercial firms. Despite these various cultural backgrounds, the island retains a distinctly French cultural flavor, reflecting 18th-century French rule.


After 158 years as a crown colony, Mauritius became an independent country within the Commonwealth on March 12, 1968.

The cabinet system was adopted in 1957, and universal adult suffrage was introduced two years later. For electoral purposes, the country is divided into 21 constituencies which elect a total of 62 members to the National Assembly (plus up to eight "best losers" to help maintain the communal balance). The Council of Ministers, presided over by the prime minister, is the supreme policy-making body and is responsible to the Assembly. In 19992, Mauritius became a republic. Acting president is Ariranga Govidasamy Pillay and Anerood Jugnauth is the prime minister.

Mauritius is a member of the United Nations and the Commonwealth of Nations. It maintains diplomatic relations with 57 countries, including the following which maintain resident embassies in or near Port Louis: Australia, the People's Republic of China, Egypt, France, India, Korea, Madagascar, Pakistan, the U.K., the U.S., and the former U.S.S.R.

The flag of Mauritius consists of red, blue, yellow, and green horizontal divisions.

Arts, Science, Education

An interest in arts and letters has existed in Mauritius since the 18th century. The island has produced talented poets and novelists, and the work of one historian is recognized as authoritative throughout the world. As early as the 18th century, actors from France performed plays in Port Louis. Today, although overseas theater and opera troupes come here infrequently, many islanders attend high-standard performances given by local amateur drama groups. Lectures, art exhibits, and concerts of varying quality are other activities which give Mauritius a unique flavor of both Eastern and Western culture in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

Representative and abstract painting flourishes; local authorities provide art courses to initiate interested young people. The island has a musical society and several active historical societies. The Mauritius Archives is one of the oldest organizations of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. The Mauritius Institute, founded in 1880, comprises a natural history museum, public library, small art gallery, and historical museum at Mahébourg.

Mauritius' efficient Sugar Industry Research Institute is a world-acclaimed organization providing improved varieties of cane. It also pursues research on fertilizers, herbicides, pest and disease control, irrigation practices, and sugar technology.

Demands are high for widespread, free primary and secondary education. Literacy was estimated at approximately 94 percent and, although education is not compulsory, about 95 percent of children of primary school age attended schools. Mauritius maintains an Industrial Trade Training Centre; the College of Education, which trains primary school teachers; and the Institute of Education, which prepares teachers for secondary schools. The University of Mauritius is concerned with agriculture, technology, education, and administration, and currently is developing its curriculum and student body. Most Mauritians obtain their university degrees in the United Kingdom, France, India, or the United States.

Commerce and Industry

The Mauritian economy depends heavily on the sugar industry. Sugar grows on 90 percent of the arable land and accounts for about 25 percent of export earnings. The island produces from 500,000 to 700,000 tons of sugar annually. As an associate member of the European Community (EC), Mauritius has an annual export quota of about 500,000 metric tons to the EC countries at a guaranteed price.

Because of the island's vulnerability to cyclones, nonsugar agriculture (vegetables and fruit) is small; the country imports most of its daily food requirements. However, the government has a determined policy of diversifying agriculture to reverse traditional dependence on exported sugar and imported food.

To diversify the economy and create jobs, Mauritius launched, in the early 1970s, the Export Processing Zone (EPZ) scheme for firms manufacturing exclusively for export. With the establishment of the EPZ, the manufacturing sector (excluding sugar milling) has greatly increased its economic importance. About 29 percent of recorded employment is in the manufacturing establishments. EPZ firms concentrate on textile products, especially knitwear; Mauritius is currently the world's third largest exporter of knitwear.

Tourism also developed rapidly during the 1970s to become the island's third-largest source of foreign exchange earnings by the end of the decade, drawing almost half of its visitors from Europe. More than 250,000 tourists visit Mauritius each year.

The bulk of Mauritian imports consists of food, petroleum products, machinery and transport equipment, chemicals and fertilizers, cement, iron and steel, and crude vegetable oil. The imports come mainly from EC countries, South Africa, the U.K., and the U.S., except petroleum products, which are brought from Bahrain and Kuwait.

The economy suffered in the 1980's because of low world sugar prices. The economy has experience high growth, averaging 6 percent, since.

The Mauritius Chamber of Commerce and Industry is located at 3 Royal St., Port Louis; telephone: 2083301; telex: 4277; FAX: 2080076.


Regular flights operate to and from Europe, eastern and southern Africa, India, and Australia. Schedules change frequently, however, and airline offices should be consulted for current information. Occasional passenger ships stop at Mauritius on cruises, and some cargo ships carry passengers to Africa and Australia.

The island has neither railroads nor streetcars, and buses are crowded and slow. Local taxi service is generally safe and adequate. Taxis are not metered, but fares are supposedly based on mileage, using the odometer as a gauge. Overcharges can be avoided by agreeing on a price beforehand.

The roads in Mauritius are usually paved, but not well maintained. In 1989, the World Bank approved a loan of $30 million for the resurfacing of 110 miles (175 kilometers) of roadway. Driving can be hazardous because of pedestrians, carts, and animals moving along the sides of narrow roads, and the recklessness of many drivers. Local driver's licenses will be issued to those with valid foreign permits. Liability insurance is required by law, and a discount is given with proof of a safe-driving record.


Telephone service is poor for most of the island. The beach resort hotels have telephones, and outlying police stations will deliver urgent messages. The international circuit is open on a 24-hour basis, but calls often take 15 to 30 minutes to place. Connections are good, and all calls are automatically person-to-person. Collect calls cannot be made or received.

Reliable worldwide telegraph service is available. International airmail between Mauritius and the U.S. takes five to 10 days, depending on destination, and the mail is neither restricted nor censored.

The Mauritius Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) operates on medium-wave radio and one television band. It broadcasts in French, English, Hindi, and Chinese. English-language news is broadcast daily by TV and radio. Some English, American, and French TV films are aired, with many of the former two dubbed in French. TV sets can be purchased or rented inexpensively. Sets properly equipped with boosters or good antennas (available locally) can receive telecasts from the French overseas channel, RFO, on Réunion Island in the Indian Ocean; RFO provides daily news coverage from Paris.

International editions of Time and Newsweek are available at local newsstands within a few days of publication. No local press is written exclusively in English. The chief French-language dailies print mostly local news and advertising; they do, however, cover some international news, and a few articles are in English. Reuters and Agence France Press news bulletins are received by the U.S. Embassy in Port Louis.


Private medical facilities in Mauritius are generally adequate for routine cases, although they do not measure up to U.S. standards of efficiency, organization, or sophistication of equipment. Doctors and surgeons are capable of coping with emergencies; unfortunately, however, inadequate nursing care and staff sometimes make the system uncertain.

The three large, government-owned and-operated hospitals have satisfactory equipment and personnel, but are unpopular because of overcrowding (medical care is free for all Mauritians). Although the Ramgoolam Hospital, a government facility in the northern part of the island, has a basic intensive-care unit, it is considered too far from most American residences in the Floreal/Vacoas plateau region.

Most physicians have been trained in Europe and India. Many are government doctors with private practices in their specialties. In general, local physicians are well trained, but their efficiency is often hampered by inadequately trained support personnel, unavailable strategic equipment and supplies, heavy patient loads, and lack of in-country instruction to stay abreast of medical advances and technology. Cultural dissimilarities also account for differing attitudes toward patient care, devotion to duty, and other Hippocratic-oath standards normally expected by Americans.

Dental service is somewhat expensive. As in the case of physicians, some dentists may be out of touch with modern equipment and dental practices, and their care is not up to U.S. standards. They should be selected with discrimination. Although Mauritius itself has no orthodontist, a good one is in practice on Réunion Island. Long delays often are experienced in trying to arrange dental appointments.

Pharmacies are numerous and fairly well stocked. However, most brands of medicines are European-manufactured and may be unfamiliar to Americans. Prices are reasonable. All main towns have several pharmacies; a few are open on Sundays and local holidays.

Mauritius has no serious endemic diseases or health hazards. Except for an occasional bout of dysentery or influenza, most resident Americans find the island healthful. The constant high humidity may, however, affect persons with arthritic conditions. Malaria suppressants are recommended for all residents, especially those who live near the coast. Hay fever and sinusitis sufferers are affected during July and August when the sugarcane is in flower.

Parasites and dysentery are common, but usually can be prevented by careful preparation and storage of food, the boiling of drinking water, and the use of patent medicines. Gamma globulin and tetanus inoculations are recommended before arrival. While infectious hepatitis, poliomyelitis, and typhoid and paratyphoid fever occur intermittently, they can be countered by immunizations at regular intervals.


Travel to Mauritius from the U.S. is by two basic alternate routes. The first is via Europe, the other via the South Atlantic and South Africa. Planes arrive daily. The ocean port of entry is Port Louis.

American citizens do not need visas to enter Mauritius, but valid immunization certificates are required. In countries where Mauritius does not maintain an embassy, visas may be obtained through British consular offices.

Pets are allowed to enter Mauritius only if accompanied by import permits; applications are to be made beforehand to the Veterinary Department, Ministry of Agriculture, Le Réduit. Dogs and cats are required to undergo six months' quarantine in government kennels from the date of their arrival, and all expenses are charged to the owner. During this period, only adult owners may check on their animals, and at fixed hours. The quarantine kennels, at Le Réduit, about seven miles from downtown Port Louis, are clean and modern, and have a government veterinarian in daily attendance.

The time in Mauritius is Greenwich Mean Time plus four.

The unit of currency is the Mauritian rupee (Re, plural Rs), which is divided into 100 cents. Branches of Citibank N.A. and Barclays Bank International are located in Port Louis.

Mauritius uses the English system of weights and measures. Gasoline is sold by the imperial gallon.


Jan. 1 & 2 New Year's Day

Jan/Feb. Chinese New Year & Spring Festival*

Jan/Feb. Thaipoosam Cavadee*

Feb/Mar. Maha Shivaratree*

Mar. 12 Independence Day

Mar/Apr. Good Friday*

Mar/Apr. Easter*

Mar/Apr. Ougadi*

May 1 Labor Day

Aug/SeptGanesh Chaturthi*

Sept 9Father Leval Day

Nov. 1All Saints' Day

Oct/Nov. Divali*

Dec. 25 Christmas Day

Id al-Adha*


Id al-Fitr*



The following titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country:

Bowman, Larry W. Mauritius: Democracy and Development in the Indian Ocean. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1991.

Chandrasekhar, S. The Population of Mauritius. La Jolla, CA: Population Review Books, 1990.

DeMarigny, Isabelle D. et al. Living in Mauritius. New York: Thames Hudson, 1990.

Gulhati, Ravi. Mauritius: Managing Success. Washington, DC: World Bank, 1990.

Gulhati, Ravi. Successful Stabilization and Recovery in Mauritius. World Bank, 1990.

Hidebrand Travel Guides. Mauritius. Rev. ed. Edison, NJ: Hunter Publishing NY, 1988.

Selvon, Sydney. Historical Dictionary of Mauritius. 2nd ed. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1991.

Willcox, Robert. Mauritius, Reunion & the Seychelles: A Travel Survival Kit. Oakland, CA: Lonely Planet, 1989.

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Basic Data

Official Country Name: Republic of Mauritius
Region (Map name): Africa
Population: 1,179,368
Language(s): English, Creole, French, Hindi, Urdu, Hakka, Bojpoori
Literacy rate: 82.9%

Background & General Characteristics

A small island nation, located east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean, having a population of slightly more than 1.1 million, Mauritius is a stable democracy based on a plural society of several ethnic communities, including three main ones: Indians (Hindus and Muslims), Chinese, and Creoles. Citizens of Indian origin are divided among Hindus (52 percent) and Muslims (16 percent); Christians total about 28 percent, and Buddhists and others about 2 percent. Chinese residents are usually either Buddhist or Catholic. Creoles are mostly of French mixed descent and follow the Catholic faith.

Because of its history, English and French influences are evident, with French preferred over English. This is seen also in the circulation of newspapers in the two languages.

Mauritius is internationally regarded as a functioning democracy with a commendable record of regular fair and free elections and a fairly good human rights record as well. It boasts the highest per capita income in Africa.

Historical Traditions

Mauritius was a British colony before it attained independence on March 12, 1968. The island was first discovered by Arab explorers in 975 A.D. Among the European powers, it first came under Portuguese control in 1505. By the end of the sixteenth century, Mauritius fell under Dutch authority when, in 1598, the Dutch Admiral Van Warwyck landed his fleet in a bay on the southeast end of the island and named it after himself; Warwick Bay was later renamed Grand Port. Van Warwyck named the island Mauritius after Prince Mauritius Van Nassau, the stadhouder of the Netherlands at that time. Although Dutch ships on the way to the Dutch East Indies (modern Indonesia) occasionally stopped in Warwick Bay for shelter, food, and fresh water, there was no serious effort to develop the island.

In September 1715, Guillaume Dufresne d'Arsel occupied Mauritius in the name of French King Louis XV, naming it Ile de France. Warwyck Bay was renamed Port Bourbon and a little used dock in the northwest was named Port Louis.

The transformation of Port Louis into a thriving sea port was the work of Bertrand Mahe de Labourdonnais, who, in the 1740s, built forts, barracks, warehouses, hospitals, and houses. Roads were built throughout the island, and a shipbuilding industry was founded. The French period also marked the beginning of the island's sugar industry and the importation of African slaves.

In 1785, Ile de France became the headquarters of all the French possessions east of Cape Horn. During the Napoleonic wars, the British occupied Mauritius in 1810. The Treaty of Paris restored most of the former French possessions to the Bourbon King of France, but not Mauritius, which remained a British possession.

Under the British, the sugar industry experienced rapid growth as an export crop. In addition, although the slave trade was abolished in 1807 and slavery itself in 1833, plantation owners in Mauritius kept both practices alive until 1835. Even then, it took a payment of 2 million pounds to the owners to get them to abide by abolition. In the following years, the British encouraged thousands of Indians, both Hindus and Muslims, to migrate to Mauritius as indentured laborers. That process continued until 1907 when indentured labor was also abolished.

During World War II, Mauritius became important to the war effort because of its strategic location. The British based their fleet at Port Louis and Grand Port and built an airport at Plaisance and a sea plane base at Baie du Tombeau. During the war, a large telecommunications facility was built at Vacoas.

The Republic of Mauritius is a parliamentary democracy, governed by a prime minister, a council of ministers, and a National Assembly with 62 elected members and 4 others nominated by the election commission from the losing political parties to give representation to ethnic minorities. Assembly members serve five-year terms. The president and vice-president are elected by the National Assembly, also for five years. National and local elections, supervised by an independent commission, take place at regular intervals.

Politics did not become an important part of island life until 1936, when the Labour Party was founded. After World War II, the Mauritius Labour Party (MLP) won the majority of seats in the Legislative Council established under the 1948 constitution. By 1959, the party had gained wide acceptance, and that year, MLP leader Dr. (later Sir) Seewoosagur Ramgoolam was elected Chief Minister. In 1965 he became Prime Minister, a post he held until 1982. During Ramgoolam's administration, Mauritius became an independent country within the Commonwealth of Nations in 1968; in 1992, it became a republic.

The island's politics were marred by violence when the Mouvement Militant Mauricien (MMM), under the leadership of Franco-Mauritian Paul Berenger, gained power in the elections of 1982. With Berenger as the MMM's General Secretary, and Hindu British-trained lawyer Anerood Jugnauth serving as President, the MMM captured all 62 seats in the legislature. Jagnauth became Prime Minister and Berenger his Finance Minister. In elections held September 17, 2000, Jugnauth retained his post as Prime Minister, with Berenger as his Deputy Prime Minister.

Print Media

The oldest newspaper published in Africa was in Mauritius: Le Cerneen, which was a French-language organ of the sugar industry. The second oldest daily in Mauritius, also in French, was first published in 1908 to represent the interests of the Creole community.

The growing numbers of immigrant Chinese and Indian laborers and their descendants produced the first Chinese paper, Chinese Daily News, in 1932, and the first Indian daily, Advance, in 1939. Improved literacy and the people's growing interest in politics led to more dailies: China Times (1953), New Chinese Commercial Paper (1956), Star (1963), L'ExpressLe Militant (1969), Liberation (1971), The Nation (1971) and Le Populaire (1973).

As of 2002, there were a dozen privately-owned newspapers published in Mauritius and one on nearby Rodrigues Island. Most of them freely express their views in opposition to reigning government, and although sometimes they seemingly overstep their limits, the government has yet to invoke the libel laws available to it. With the exception of the Chinese dailies, all daily newspapers are published in both French and English. Additionally, the Mauritius News, a bilingual newspaper that is published monthly in London, England, has a wide circulation in Mauritius as well as in the Mauritian community in the United Kingdom. The newspapers extensively use two wire services: the All Africa Newswire available in English and French, and the Pan African News Agency, which provides its news stream in English, French, and Arabic. Copies of the larger Mauritian newspapers and magazines, such as ImpactNews, Le Quotidien, News on Sunday,5-Plus Dimanche, The Sun, Sundayand Week-End are all available on microfilm at the U.S. Library of Congress facility in New Delhi.

Economic Framework

After its independence from Britain, Mauritius drastically revolutionized its low-income, agricultural-based economy that largely relied on sugar production to a labor intensive, export oriented industrialized economy that also features a thriving tourist sector. The tourist department advertises Mauritius as "the most cosmopolitan island in the sun" with a "charming population, always wearing a smile." The island nation does offer excellent hotel accommodation, a full range of water and land sports, beautiful beaches, and deep blue lagoons, all of which have combined to make the island a popular tourist destination, which contributes to the economy and well-being of its slightly more than one million inhabitants. Despite the recent industrialization, sugar exports still account for 25 percent of the country's export earnings. Mauritius has also developed into an off-shore finance and investment center, attracting more than 9,000 offshore "entities," mostly interested in conducting trade with India and South Africa, as well as an investment in the banking sector. The island's annual economic growth rate has averaged 5 to 6 percent, which in turn has led to increased life expectancy rates, lower infant mortality, and the creation of a sophisticated infrastructure. In 1999, Mauritian exports were estimated at $1.6 billion and its largest export clients were the United Kingdom (32 percent), France (19 percent), and Germany (6 percent). That same year, its imports were valued at $2.3 billion, with most goods coming from France (14 percent), South Africa (11 percent), India (8 percent), and the United Kingdom (5 percent). The country's external debt stood at $1.9 billion in 2001.

Press Laws

The Constitution, adopted on March 12, 1968, and amended on March 12, 1992, recognizes freedom of speech and of the press. By all accounts, the government of Mauritius respects these freedoms. The Constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, but because there were reports of several prisoners dying while in police custody in 1998 and early 1999, the Commissioner of Police established a Complaint Investigation Bureau (CIB) in October 1999 to investigate complaints against the police. The national Human Rights Commission established in April 2001 supervises the CIB. The government has permitted prison visits by foreign diplomats, the national ombudsman, the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC), and the press. In fact, the press has taken an active role in making prison visits and in reporting the living conditions in the media. The government recognizes the fact that many of its citizens greatly respect what it considers to be the fundamental freedoms. For example, although the Public Security Act of 2000 allows police officers of the rank of assistant superintendent and above to search a premises without a warrant in any situation where the delay in obtaining a warrant may be prejudicial to public safety, the government had not implemented the law as of 2002 because of strong public pressures against it.

However, in March 2001, the police briefly detained the editor of the newspaper on Rodrigues island on a charge of publishing false information. The article in question, alleged that a Rodrigues man died as a result of injuries received in police custody. A hearing originally scheduled for November 2001 was postponed to 2002. The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, which consists of the Supreme Court with appellate powers, and a series of lower courts. The government respects the independence and integrity of the judiciary.

Broadcast & ELECTRONIC News Media

Since 1999 there has been considerable debate about and subsequent changes to the government's control over radio and television broadcasting. In the campaign preceeding the September 2000 elections, the issue of the government's control and misuse of the state-owned Mauritius Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) held center-stage. After the elections, the new government vowed to depoliticize the MBC. By the end of that year, the Mauritian Journalists Association noted in its report that the government was placing far less pressure on it than it had before the election.

Meanwhile, in August 2000, the National Assembly passed the Independent Broadcasting Authority Act, which created the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) with a mandate to regulate and license all radio and television broadcasting. The law provided for the private ownership of broadcast stations and reemphasized the independence of the IBA. However, the IBA is composed of representatives of several ministries and is chaired by Ashok Radhakissoon, an appointee of the Prime Minister, It also is answers to the Prime Minister on matters of national security and public order. The following July and August, the IBA began formulating licensing rules and hearing applications for broadcast licenses. In December 2001, it authorized two private radio stations and announced that a third radio station would be authorized to broadcast. However, the stations were not able to broadcast at the time the they were authorized because they had not yet received "multicarrier" service. Thus the implementation of the law has been slow and the government's monopoly in broadcasting local news and programming continued in early 2002. Some government observers felt that the government was intentionally causing the delays because it did not want to let go of its control over broadcasting. However, while the new stations were waiting to provide service, a private news organization opened up on the Internet that broadcast local news out over the Internet, thereby circumventing the ban on private party television or radio local news broadcasts. Also, foreign international news services such as the British Sky News, French Canal Plus, and CNN were already available to anyone by subscription. Additionally, almost all major Australian cities carry news from Mauritius by broadcasting programs in French. Two popular community radio programs are: the Melbourne South Eastern CommunityMauritian Community Program on 3 SER 97.7 FM (stereo) and the Mauritian, Rodriguan, and Seychelles Community Program, which is run by volunteers, on 3 ZZZ 92.3 FM. The stations broadcast music, news, quiz programs, interviews, and "radiothons" in French and Mauritian Creole.


Editor & Publisher International Yearbook. New York: Editor and Publisher Co., 1999.

Statistical Yearbook, Paris: UNESCO, 2000.

World Press Trends. Paris: World Association of Newspapers, 2000.

World Radio and TV Handbook. Amsterdam: Billboard Publications, 2001. Available on the Internet at

Damodar R. SarDesai

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Basic Data
Official Country Name: Republic of Mauritius
Region: Africa
Population: 1,179,368
Language(s): English, Creole, French, Hindi, Urdu, Hakka, Bojpoori
Literacy Rate: 82.9%

History & Background

Since Mauritius gained its independence from Britain in 1968, its educational system, which is based upon the British model, has seen several upgrades. Primary and secondary education in the eastern African nation have been free to all residents since 1976; higher education became free in 1988.

Constitutional & Legal Foundations

Calls for educational reform throughout the 1980s and 1990s helped shape the country's workforce-based curriculum, which is geared toward producing easily trained and flexible graduates able to function in an increasingly industrialized country. A Master Plan of Education, presented by the minister of education in November 1991, put into motion several major changes including making primary education mandatory, establishing the Tertiary Education Commission to increase enrollment at institutions of higher education, and adding modern information technology to the educational infrastructure.

Educational SystemOverview

The Education Act of 1993 requires children between the ages of 5 and 12 to attend six years of primary school; enrollment is 98 percent, and roughly 50 percent of all students are female. The official language of instruction at all levels is English.

Nearly 78 percent of four-year-old children also attend preprimary schools. Students must pass a national examination, conducted by the Mauritius Examination Syndicate (MES), to receive a Certificate of Primary Education (CPE) and gain admission to secondary school. All students at the secondary school levelenrollment is 60 percent of children aged 12 to 19 years, 51 percent of whom are girlsattend three years of general courses (lower level). An additional two years of courses (upper level) prepare secondary students to earn one of two diplomas: the Cambridge School Certificate or the Cambridge Higher School Certificate. The University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate, along with the MES, oversees the final examinations for secondary students. Only 15 to 20 percent of all students earn a Higher School Certificate, while less than 2 percent of all students actually enroll at an institution of higher learning.

Private schools are commonplace in Mauritius mainly because the Education Act allows any business or individual in the country to create a primary or secondary school. The Private Secondary Schools Authority oversees government funding to private institutions. Private postsecondary institutions must be approved by the Industrial and Vocational Training Board and are subject to audit by the National Accreditation and Equivalence Council.

State-owned secondary schools are all equipped with a minimum of ten computers; private schools seek out grant funding for instructional technology. Similarly, science classrooms in state schools are furnished with laboratory implements, while private institutions receive loans to fund the purchase of similar equipment. Textbooks are free to all primary school students. Secondary school students must pay for their texts, which are standardized at the lower level and selected by school-based curriculum committees for upper level courses.

Preprimary & Primary Education

The growing role of women in the workforce prompted the establishment of public preschools in 1984. Of the 1,087 preprimary schools in operation, 79 percent are private; 16 percent are overseen by Parent Teacher Associations; and 5 percent are run by municipal and village councils. In contrast, the government controls 225 of the 291 primary schools in operation. The majority (51) of the remaining primary schools are run by the Roman Catholic Education Authority (RCEA). Along with mathematics, French, English, religion, and environmental studies, primary curriculum offerings have included seven Asian languages since 1986. Primary school enrollment reached 135,237 in 2000. The student-teacher ratio is 36:1.

Secondary Education

The government runs 34 of the nation's 134 secondary schools, while religious organizations, including the RCEA and the Hindu Education Authority, oversee most of the remaining 100 schools. Enrollment grew to 95,448 students in 2000. The student-teacher ratio is 19:1. Students who choose not to attend a general secondary school may enroll in technical and vocational programs offered at 25 schools; the student-teacher ratio at those institutions is 16:1.

Higher Education

Students with the Higher School Certificate may choose to attend one of two lycées (polytechnical institutes), run by the Management Trust Fund, or one of four universities.

Established in 1972, the University of Mauritius (UOM) offers programs of study in agriculture, sugar technology, industrial technology, and policies and administration. Enrollment in 1997 reached 2,800 students. Faculty members, both full- and part-time, totaled 300.

Mainly a teaching college, Mauritius Institute of Education (MIE) offers education degrees in science, agriculture, mathematics, and computers, as well as programs in commerce and business studies, general education studies, English, French, movement and physical education, home economics, visual arts, design and technology, educational administration and management, media and teaching aids, and social studies. MIE also offers postgraduate teaching certification.

The Mahatma Gandhi Institute, founded in 1970 by the governments of India and Mauritius to promote Indian ethnology, operates three schools: Music and Fine Arts, Indian Studies, and Mauritian and Asian Studies.

Finally, Mauritius College of the Air, which broadcasts classes, offers postsecondary education in English, French, chemistry, physics, mathematics, business management, and accounting.

Administration, Finance, & Educational Research

The Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development oversees all support provided to educational institutions. Mauritius spent 14.9 percent of government total recurrent expenditure on education in 2000. As authorized by the Mauritius Research Council, national educational research is conducted in four areas: teacher education, multicultural issues, special education, and curriculum.

Nonformal Education

In 1995, a total of 17.8 percent of the population was deemed illiterate. Five government organizations and 51 nongovernment organizations offer literacy training to all age groups.

Teaching Profession

The Mauritius Institute of Education offers training to new and experienced teachers at the preprimary through secondary levels. Preprimary teachers are required to hold a Cambridge School Certificate and complete a training course. Primary education teachers must also complete a two-year program consisting of both coursework and teaching practice. State school teachers at the secondary level must have a degree from an accredited university to earn the title of "Education Officer Grade A" or a Cambridge Higher School Certificate and three-years of part-time teacher training, which culminates in a teaching diploma, to earn the title of "Education Officer Grade B."

Secondary school teachers at private institutions are required to hold a college degree to become an Education Officer; a Cambridge School Certificate and a teaching diploma to become a Grade I teacher; or a Cambridge Higher School Certificate to become a Grade II teacher. To earn a postgraduate certificate in education, students must take 24 credits of coursework and 8 credits of teaching practice.


The educational policies and practices of Mauritius will likely remain closely tied to the nation's economic development. With legislation underway for the creation of a University of Technology and many education officials calling for the increase of mandatory education from six to nine years, the primary, secondary, and tertiary educational systems of the nation may undergo considerable changes early in the twenty-first century.


Alladin, Ibrahim M. Education and Neocolonialism: A Study of Educational Development in Mauritius. Peter Lang Publishing, 2000.

Mauritius Ministry of Economic Development and Productivity & Regional Development. Education Statistics 2000. Prepared by the Ministry of Education and Scientific Research, Central Statistical Office. Port Louis, August 2000. Available from

U.S. Library of Congress. MauritiusA Country Study. Prepared by the Federal Research Division. Washington, DC, August 1994. Available from

World Data on Education. Education Profiles: Mauritius. Prepared by the International Bureau of Education, June 2000. Available from

AnnaMarie L. Sheldon

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Official name: Republic of Mauritius

Area: 1,860 square kilometers (718 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: Black River Peak (828 meters/2,717 feet)

Lowest point on land: Sea level

Hemispheres: Southern and Eastern

Time zone: 4 p.m. = noon GMT

Longest distances: 61 kilometers (38 miles) from north to south; 47 kilometers (29 miles) from east to west

Land boundaries: None

Coastline: 177 kilometers (110 miles)

Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)


The African island nation of Mauritius is located in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar. With a total area of about 1,860 square kilometers (718 square miles), the country is about eleven times the size of Washington, D.C. Mauritius is divided into nine districts and three dependencies.


Rodrigues Island, and the island groups of Agalega Islands and Cargados Carajos Shoals (also called the St. Brandon group), are all dependencies of Mauritius. They also are located in the Indian Ocean, north and east of Mauritius.


Mauritius has a maritime climate with temperatures that vary by altitude. At sea level temperatures range from 18°C to 30°C (64° to 86°F); at an elevation of 460 meters (1,500 feet), they range from 13°C to 26°C (55° to 79°F). Because it is in the tropics, Mauritius's climate is mostly humid, with prevailing southeast winds. The warmest months are October through April (summer) and the coolest are June through September (winter).

Due to the tradewinds, the central plateau and windward slopes experience heavy rains from October to March. These areas have an annual average rainfall of more than 500 centimeters (200 inches). On the coast, yearly rainfall averages about 100 centimeters (40 inches). From April to September, daily showers occur; between December and April, occasional tropical cyclones strike Mauritius.


Mauritius is a picturesque island nation, with rugged volcanic features and a large fertile plain. The compact main island is the worn and eroded base of an extinct volcano. It stands on a mostly undersea feature called the Mascarene Plateau (a ridge that for much of its length now lies underwater in the Indian Ocean and runs from north to south). The Mascarene Plateau was once a land bridge between Asia and Africa. The island's surface consists of a broad plateau that begins on the southern coastline, with elevations of approximately 670 meters (2,200 feet), and then slopes toward a northern coastal plain. Several low mountain groups and isolated peaks rise above the level of the plateau, forming a more rugged landscape. A coral reef nearly encircles the island. Mauritius sits on the African Tectonic Plate, but not near enough to any plate boundaries or fault lines to experience any major earthquakes or tectonic activity.


Seacoast and Undersea Features

The Indian Ocean surrounds Mauritius and its dependencies. Third-largest of the five oceans of the world, the Indian Ocean extends north to south from Asia to Antarctica and east to west from Africa to Australia.

A large coral reef entirely surrounds Mauritius, except for a few small breaks along the coast. A large break in the reef occurs on the southern coast between Souillac and Le Bouchon, and a smaller gap occurs on the western coast at Flic-en-Flac.

Sea Inlets and Straits

The Grand River Bay lies just south of the Port Louis Harbor. Just north of the harbor is Tom-beau Bay. Grand Bay, located near the city of the same name, is situated in the far northwest shore. Tamarin Bay, by the city of Tamarin north of the Black River, is a popular spot for surfers. These, as well as many other small inlets along the Mauritius coast, boast beautiful coral sand beaches.

Islands and Archipelagos

The inhabited Rodrigues Island lies about 560 kilometers (350 miles) to the northeast of Mauritius. It has an area of about 110 square kilometers (42.5 square miles) and a population of about 34,000. Another dependency, Agalega, lies 1,122 kilometers (697 miles) north of Mauritius and consists of two islands: North Island and South Island. Agalega has a combined area of 70 square kilometers (27 square miles).

Coral atolls surround Mauritius, including the Cargados Carajos Shoals (St. Brandon Group). Nature preserves protect the natural habitat on neighboring Round Island (Île Ronde) and Serpents Island (Île aux Serpents), among others.

Coastal Features

A few long stretches of white sand beaches line the country on the north and east. A lagoon exists at Flic-en-Flac on the midwestern coast, south of Port Louis.


Grand Bassin and Bassin Blanc, both of which lie in craters of extinct volcanoes, are two of the country's natural lakes. Grand Bassin, about 6 kilometers (4 miles) southeast of Mare aux Vacoas in the southwest, is believed to be sacred by Hindus. Several reservoirs are also located on the island, including La Nicolière in the north, Piton du Milieu in the central area, and Mare aux Vacoas, the largest reservoir, in the south.


Numerous rivers flow through Mauritius. The Grand River South East is the country's longest river, at 40 kilometers (25 miles) in length. It is located in the central-eastern region. The other main rivers are Black River (Rivière Noire), Post River (Rivière du Poste), Grand River North West, and Rempert River. Several waterfalls exist; the highest are the Tamarin Falls in the west at 293 meters (961 feet) in height.


There are no desert regions in Mauritius.


The coastal plains cover about 46 percent of the country, and most of these are located in the north. Nearly 50 percent of the land is arable, but only about 10 percent of the economic output comes from agriculture. Sugarcane is a primary crop.


The entire island of Mauritius is of volcanic origin, having risen from the sea floor roughly ten million years ago. Three mountain ranges border the central plateau of Mauritius: Moka to the northwest, Grand Port to the east, and Black River to the southwest. The highest peak on the island, Black River Peak (Piton de la Rivière Noire), is in the southwest region of the country, in the Black River Mountain Range.


Caverne Patate, located in the southwest corner of the island of Rodrigues, is a series of coral rock and limestone caves popular with tourists that stretches for about 795 meters (2608 feet). The mainland of Mauritius contains several lava caves (often called cellars); many of them are unexplored, however.

Canyons serve as the center point for the Black River Gorges National Park, created in 1994 as the nation's first national conservation area.


From elevations of approximately 670 meters (2,200 feet) near the southern coastline, a broad central plateau slopes toward a northern coastal plain. The country's mountain ranges surround the plateau.


There are ten man-made reservoirs in Mauritius. Earthfill dams created these reservoirs to retain fresh water for drinking and irrigation. Some of the dams also provide hydroelectric power.


Mauritius's designation as a tropical island is based on its location between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. The Tropic of Cancer is the parallel of latitude located at 23°30' north of the equator. The Tropic of Capricorn is located at the parallel of latitude that is 23°30' south of the equator. These imaginary lines mark the boundaries of an area in which the sun will appear to be directly overheador at a 90°-angle to the earthat twelve o'clock noon. North or south of these lines, the angle of the sun at noon appears to be less than 90°. The lines were named after the constellations that the sun moves through during the winter and summer solstices (Capricorn on December 21 or 22 and Cancer on June 21 or 22).



Mauritius, Réunion, & Seychelles. New York: Langenscheidt Publishers, 2000.

NgCheong-Lum, Roseline. Culture Shock! Mauritius. Singapore: Time Books International, 1997.

Selvon, Sydney. Historical Dictionary of Mauritius. 2nd ed. Meutchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1991.


McCarry, John. "Mauritius: Island of Quiet Success." National Geographic, April 1993, 110-132.

Web Sites

"Geography & Climate." Government of Mauritius. (accessed April 24, 2003).

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Mauritius (môrĬsh´ēəs, –əs), officially Republic of Mauritius, republic (2005 est. pop. 1,231,000), 790 sq mi (2,046 sq km), in the SW Indian Ocean. It is part of the Mascarene Islands, c.500 mi (800 km) E of Madagascar. The island of Rodriguez and two groups of small islands, Agalega and Cargados Carajos, are dependencies of Mauritius. The capital is Port Louis.

Land and People

Mauritius is surrounded by coral reefs. A central plateau is ringed by mountains of volcanic origin, which rise to c.2,700 ft (820 m) in the southwest. The island has a tropical, rainy climate. Mauritius is divided into nine districts.

Over two thirds of the population are of Indian descent, and over 25% are creole (of mixed French and African background). There are also small Chinese and French communities. About half of the people are Hindu, while 30% are Christian (mainly Roman Catholic), and most of the remainder are Muslim. English is the official language, although most of the people speak a creole dialect; other languages include Bojpoori, French, Hindi, Urdu, and Hakka.


Mauritius has had one of the world's faster-growing economies since the early 1980s, in part because of its success in attracting foreign investors. Sugarcane is the chief crop. Tea, flowers for the florist trade, and food crops are also grown, cattle and goats are raised, and there is a fishing industry. Since independence, the country has decreased its dependence on sugar (though most of the arable land remains devoted to it), diversified its industrial base to include mining and manufacturing, and adopted free-trade economic policies. Financial services and tourism are important industries, and data processing and call centers also contribute to the economy. Clothing and textiles, sugar and molasses, cut flowers, and fish are the major exports. Manufactured goods, capital equipment, foodstuffs, petroleum products, and chemicals are imported. The country's chief trading partners are Great Britain, France, China, and the United States.


Mauritius is governed under the constitution of 1968, as amended. The president, who is head of state, is elected by the National Assemby for a five-year term and is eligible for a second term. The government is headed by the prime minister, who is appointed by the president. The unicameral legislature consists of the 70-seat National Assembly; 62 members are elected, and eight, representing ethnic minorities, are appointed by the election commission. All serve five-year terms. Administratively, Mauritius is divided into nine districts and three dependencies.


Mauritius was probably visited by Arabs and Malays in the Middle Ages. Portuguese sailors visited it in the 16th cent. The island was occupied by the Dutch from 1598 to 1710 and named after Prince Maurice of Nassau. The French settled the island in 1722 and called it Île de France. It became an important way station on the route to India. The French introduced the cultivation of sugarcane and imported large numbers of African slaves to work the plantations. The British captured the island in 1810 and restored the Dutch name. After the abolition of slavery in 1835, indentured laborers were brought from India; their descendants constitute a majority of the population today.

Politics on Mauritius was long the preserve of the French and the creoles, but the extension of the franchise under the 1947 constitution gave the Indians political power. Indian leaders in the 1950s and 60s favored independence, while the French and creoles wanted continuing association with Britain, fearing domination by the Hindu Indian majority. In 1965, Britain separated the strategic Chagos Archipelago (see British Indian Ocean Territory) from Mauritius, but Mauritius continues to claim the islands and has sought their return. The 1967 election gave a majority in the assembly to Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam's proindependence Labor party. Independence was granted in 1968, and Ramgoolam became the first prime minister. Mauritius joined the Commonwealth of Nations and the United Nations.

The 1960s saw the rise of left-wing militancy, while in the 1970s and 80s political coalitions formed along ethnic and class lines. The economic crisis of the late 1970s and early 80s, after Cyclone Claudette and a drop in world sugar prices, intensified internal disputes.

In 1982 the left-wing Mauritius Militant Movement (MMM) came to power, and Anerood Jugnauth became prime minister. The following year a split in the MMM led Jugnauth to form the Mauritius Socialist Movement (MSM). Jugnauth headed a series of coalition governments. In 1992, Mauritius became a republic, with Cassam Uteem as its first president. In 1995, Navinchandra Ramgoolam, son of the former prime minister, and a Labor-led coalition came to power after defeating Jugnauth in a landslide, but in Sept., 2000, Jugnauth and an MSM-MMM coalition returned to power in a similar landslide.

President Uteem resigned in 2002; Karl Offmann was elected by the national assembly to succeed him. In Sept., 2003, Jugnauth resigned and his MMM coalition partner, Paul Bérenger, became prime minister. Bérenger became the first person not of Indian descent to hold the post. The following month Offman was succeeded as president by Jugnauth. In the July, 2005, national assembly elections, Ramgoolam's Labor-led Social Alliance won a majority of the seats, and he became prime minister. He and his coalition were returned to power in the May, 2010, elections, but in 2011 and 2014 coalition partners of the Labor party withdrew from the government. Jugnauth resigned in Mar., 2012, to return to active party politics; Rajkeswar Purryag was elected to succeed him in July. In Sept., 2014, Labor and MMM agreed to an electoral alliance that would campaign in support of constitutional changes that would split executive powers between a popularly elected president and the prime minister. The December elections resulted in a win for the MSM-led coalition, and Jugnauth again became prime minister. President Purryag resigned in May, 2015; Ameenah Gurib-Fakim was elected to succeed him the following month.


See S. Selvon, Historical Dictionary of Mauritius (2d ed. 1991); M. J. Devaux, Mauritius (1983); L. Bowman, Mauritius (1991); P. R. Bennett, Mauritius (1992).

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Mauritius Republic in the sw Indian Ocean, c.800km (500mi) e of Madagascar; the capital is Port Louis (on Mauritius). The country consists of the main island of Mauritius, 20 nearby islets, and the dependency islands of Rodrigues, Agalega, and Cargados Carajos. The climate is sub-tropical, with up to 5000mm (200in) of rain a year. The Dutch began to colonize the island in 1598, and named it after Prince Maurice of Nassau. In 1715, it came under the control of France. The French established sugar cane plantations and imported African slave labour. In 1810, Britain seized Mauritius, and it was formally recognized as a British colony in 1814. In 1833, slavery was abolished and Indian forced labour was used. In 1968, Mauritius achieved independence as a member of the Commonwealth. In 1992, it became a republic. Its vast plantations produce sugar cane; sugar and molasses are the major exports. The increase in tourism and textile production partly compensated for the decline in the sugar market (2000 GDP per capita US$10,400). Ethnic and class divisions, combined with economic austerity, created a divided society in the 1980s. Area: 2046sq km (790sq mi). Pop. (2000) 1,201,000.;

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Culture Name



Identification. The island of Mauritius was apparently uninhabited until 1638. It was then that the Dutch, under the Dutch East India Company, made their first attempt to colonize the land, named after the prince of Denmark, Maurice of Nassau. The people of Mauritius are descendants of European (mostly French) settlers, the Franco-Mauritians; African slaves and creoles, the Afro-Mauritians; Chinese traders, the Sino-Maurtians; and Indian laborers, the Indo-Mauritians. Such cultural diversity and geographic isolation have led to a nationalized sense of pride. There is unity in being a Mauritian despite not having a shared language and customs. For this reason Mauritius is often considered a global example of successful cultural integration.

Location and Geography. A total of 790 square miles (2,046 square kilometers) of land cover Mauritius. These include the island of Mauritius, with 720 square miles (1,865 square kilometers); the island of Rodrigues, about 350 miles (563 kilometers) east of Mauritius; the small Agalega Islands, 580 miles (933 kilometers) north; and the Cargados Carajos Shoals, 250 miles (402 kilometers) north.

The island of Mauritius, where the overwhelming majority of the people live, lies 500 miles (805 kilometers) east of Madagascar and 2,500 miles (4,023 kilometers) southwest of India. Mauritius was formed by volcanic activity that left a plateau in the middle of the island rising 2,200 feet (671 meters) above sea level. This plateau slopes downward to the north until it reaches the sea. In the south and west the plateau drops sharply to the coast. The driest part of the island in is the southwest, which receives about 35 inches (89 centimeters) per year. The center can receive up to 200 inches (508 centimeters) a year. The capital is Port Louis, on the northwestern roast of the island of Mauritius.

Demography. The current population is approximately 1.1 million. The majority live in the capital and largest city, Port Louis. The population density is one of the highest in the world. Immigration came in successive and dramatic waves. This is demonstrated through the official census, first published in 1846. In that year the total population was 158,462. The white and colored population was 102,217, and the Indian population was 56,245. In 1861 the total population reached 310,050. The white and colored population increased to 115,864. The Indian population more than tripled, to 192,634, to become the majority, and the Chinese population first registered at 1,552. In 1921 the white and colored population decreased to 104,216, the Indian population increased to 335,327, and the Chinese increased to 6,745, in a total population of 376,485. The next census was in 1952, which showed the total population at 501,415. Whites and coloreds were 148,238; Indians once again increased, to 335,327; and the Chinese moved to 17,850. In 1962 the census combined the whites and coloreds to become the "general population" and separated the Indians into Hindus and Muslims. In 1983 the census stopped ethnic comparisons altogether in favor of religious groupings. This was part of a government-based objective to de-emphasize ethnic differences. Results from the 1990 census are as follows: 535,028 Hindus, 172,047 Muslims, and 343,395 Christians, with 6,190 listed as Other.

Linguistic Affiliation. There is no official language in Mauritius. Government and administrative work is written in English. The press uses French, which is understood by more of the population than English. The majority of people understand a Creole language. There is no agreed-upon written form of this language, however, so it appears unlikely that this would be adapted as a national language despite its widespread use. At the school level the official policy is to promote ancestral languages. Thus the true state of languages seems to be genuinely a hybrid affair, and the government finds this the least intrusive of all possible measures.

History and Ethnic Relations

Arab and Swahili sailors knew of Mauritius before the 1500s. Portuguese explorers visited in the early sixteenth century. In 1638 the Dutch made attempts to colonize and inhabit the island. They brought small numbers of African slaves and introduced sugarcane to the island. Trouble maintaining the settlements led to their total abandonment in about 1710.

Five years later, Dusfrene d'Arsel claimed the island for France. The French already had nearby Réunion Island, and with these geographic holds the Mascarene Islands became an important base for attacks on British possessions in wartime. Under French rule Mauritius developed colonial plantation patterns.

The British attacked and captured the strategic islands in 1810. Réunion was given back to the French four years later because of the lack of good harbors. The Mauritius culture saw little change with the English takeover. The Cape of Good Hope was a more prized British possession, and subsequently little capital and effort was put into the Mauritian economy.

In 1825 the preferential West Indian sugar tariff was repealed, and the island transformed itself into a sugar-based economy.

Slavery was abolished in 1835. This led to large-scale demographic changes. The majority of the total population were plantation slaves. With the release of obligatory duty, upwards of half the slaves fled the plantations to live in shantytowns or unoccupied land. To make up for the loss in the workforce, plantation owners imported laborers from India. From 1835 to 1845 the Indian population went from nonexistent to a third of the total population.

Emergence of the Nation. Mauritius started self-government in the 1950s, which led to full independence from Great Britain on 12 March 1968. Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam was the leader of this movement and afterward became the first prime minister. He served in that post from 1968 to 1982.

National Identity. The national identity of being a Mauritian is forged early in school and continues in the workplace. The mix of cultures forms the identity of the island. With no defining national cultural traits, the question arises whether Mauritius has a unique culture, or whether one is developing.

Ethnic Relations. The 1980s led to an economic boom for the island. This was fueled mostly by the industrialization of the export business. This led to more interracial mingling as the workplace brought previously separated ethnic factions together. This is mirrored in the school system.

The main ethnic groups have been emphasizing their ethnic roots and have helped to set up the Ministry for Culture and Arts to promote cultural activities and a better understanding of the different cultures in Mauritius. Cultural centers accomplish this task at the local level. These tend to reinforce cultural identity and strengthen the independent ethnic groups. Many of these centers obtain outside help from the parent cultures.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

With one of the highest population densities in the world, Mauritius places a high premium on housing. Hindus and Muslims tend to invest their life savings in real estate. Many creoles rent in urban areas. Their unique architecture is known for sharp roofs, long balconies, and canopies. Many of the traditional creole houses have been replaced in places by newer materials and designs. The government, in recognition of the heritage of the older houses, has campaigned to save their designs.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. The foods in Mauritius are as varied as the cultures. Chinese mostly own the restaurants in the cities, and they combine different ethnic foods on the same menu. Street food also is quite common for snacks and includes samosas, roti, curried rolls, soups, and noodles.

At home, rice is the most common staple. This is usually combined with fish, fowl, or red meat and copious spices to form a type of stew. Local vegetables are eaten readily and include chokos, red pumpkins, squash, and greens.

Basic Economy. The Mauritian economy is centered in agriculture and manufacturing. Commerce and services jobs also are evident. The currency is the Mauritian rupee.

Land Tenure and Property. The original Franco-Mauritian families that were given land rights in French colonial times still own more then 50 percent of the sugar fields. Large numbers of Indian planters own the remaining fields. The Chinese own a heavy concentration of commercial property. The creoles have never had any extensive land holdings. The government instituted a sugar tax to deal with the vast inequalities of the sugar industry. In the 1990s the tax was revoked after constant pressure from the sugar estates. However, a program whereby workers could buy shares in the sugar industry was begun.

Major Industries. Sugar has been the historical base of industry. Until 1979, 90 percent of the national economy was based on it. While not as powerful as they once were, the refined-sugar and molasses industries still hold much importance. Textiles and clothing manufacturing also have become important industries, along with chemicals, metals, and machinery. As with many island nations, tourism is an important source of revenue.

Trade. Because of the relatively small size of the island and scarcity of natural resources, Mauritius must import huge amounts of goods from countries such as France, South Africa, and India. Major imports included textiles, petroleum, machinery, metals, and food.

Major exports include industrial products and sugar. Agricultural products also exported are tea, peanuts, tobacco, potatoes, tomatoes, and bananas. Exports tend to be centered on the United Kingdom, France, and the United States. In 1997 the net export value was $1.616 billion (U.S.) and net imports $2.264 billion (U.S.), for a trade deficient of $648 million (U.S.).

Division of Labor. Traditionally, urban industrialization used mostly the creole women as the workforce. Rural industrialization has brought more of the Indian population, who live in higher numbers in the countryside, into the factories. The boom in industry has opened skilled-labor positions to all ethnicities in Mauritius, leading to very low unemployment rates.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. The Franco-Mauritians have had land and ownership privileges that the other ethnic groups have not, and they form a small, privileged high class. The Indians and Chinese form subgroups in relation to language, religious branches, and regional origins. Hindi is considered more prestigious among the Indian population, but northern Indian dialects are more commonly used in the countryside. The creoles have had the poorest economic conditions of any group.

Political Life

Government. The British Westminster model of government is the basis for Mauritius. Until 1992 the queen of England was the head of state and queen of Mauritius in a constitutional monarchy, with Mauritius as a commonwealth. In 1992 Mauritius became a republic. The presidency of the republic is a ceremonial office only; the president is appointed by the prime minister and the National Assembly, whose members are chosen via general elections. The prime minister is the leader of the majority in the National Assembly.

In the National Assembly, eight seats in addition to the sixty-two elected seats are awarded to candidates defeated in the general election: four to those candidates who fared the best in relation to the other defeated candidates, and four on a party and community basis. There has been discontent with this system, and a major reworking of the electoral process has been widely discussed.

Leadership and Political Officials. All of Mauritius's prime ministers have been Hindu. The first, Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, led the independence movement in Mauritius.

Social Problems and Control. In February 2000 several days of rioting occurred in Port Louis. A popular creole singer, Kaya, died while in police custody. The creole community suspected the police of misconduct leading to his death and retaliated by protests that spiraled into rioting and violence. Four deaths and fifty million dollars of damage resulted. It was the worst social unrest in Mauritius's history.

Military Activity. The military has an annual budget of $11 million and thirteen hundred active personal. Most of these are trained for internal disputes. Combined with the coast guard they have five hundred boats and aircraft available worth an estimated $87 million.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

The first study of nongovernmental organizations (NGO) in Mauritius focused on twenty-six groups as follows: eight, social; five, labor; five, business; four, religious; three, cultural; and one, environmental. Most of these groups have an influential impact on governmental policies.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. The economic success of industry has led to low unemployment rates. This has changed the workplace and home life as women joined the workforce. This industrialization also led to women being promoted faster. According to the Minister of Women, Family Welfare, and Child Development, a quarter of all managers are now women.

Women are the traditional homekeepers of the society. Between 1985 and 1991 the numbers of women working outside the home increased from 22 percent to 41 percent. With that trend continuing, hired housekeeping and child care have become relatively new and important industries.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. Historically, women have had subordinate roles in Maurition society. However, the Constitution specifically prohibits discrimination based on sex, and women now have access to education, employment, and governmental services.

In March 1998 the Domestic Violence Act was passed. This gave greater protection and legal authority to combat domestic abuse. In that same year it also became a crime to abandon one's family or pregnant spouse for more than two months, not to pay food support, or to engage in sexual harassment.

Women are underrepresented in the government. The National Assembly has seventy seats, of which women hold five.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Most marriages in Mauritius occur within the same ethnic group; only about 8 percent of marriages are interethnic. Those couples who do intermarry usually take on a single ethnic identity for their children. Those children in turn usually associate with that ethnic group and marry within it.

Ethnic identification is considered to be more important than class and is the single most examined factor in selecting a mate; group and parental influences also are factors. Marriage outside ethnic lines risks the family's disapproval and sometimes can lead to punishment. This carries additional weight in Mauritius, where families typically live with each other because of high land costs.


Child Rearing and Education. Education is free from the primary to the tertiary level and is mandatory until age twelve. The government considers education one of its greatest concerns and has an "education for all" policy to ensure fair education to the different socioeconomic groups. Some schools in low-rent areas have large drop out rates, which particularly affects the Creole community. The greatest amount of interethnic mingling occurs in the schools, and this has the promise of leading to the formation of a national identity.

Higher Education. The University of Mauritius was established in 1971. The original focus was oriented toward agriculture and manufacturing. Since 1989 the university has increased its majors to include the humanities.


Most outsiders think of Mauritians as being aloof at first. Among themselves they are quite social and friendly, and this ultimately prevails with visitors and locals alike. Dress is culturally dependent but somewhat conservative. Lightweight and colored fabrics are usually worn. Attire among women can vary from one-piece bathing suits to complete covering, especially among Muslims. Toplessness and nudity are not condoned for either sex.


Religious Beliefs. Religious freedom is the major key to peace on Mauritius and is a constitutionally guaranteed right. Hindus make up 52 percent of the total population. Christians (28.3 percent), Muslims (16.6 percent), and others (3.1 percent) follow them.

Medicine and Health Care

Public and private hospitals are on the island. The private hospitals are generally considered to be of better quality and are more expensive than the public hospitals. Both are adequate, if a little below Western standards.

Malaria is very rare and exists only in the rural areas. Hepatitis A is fairly common. The more severe hepatitis B and C are rare.

Men have an average life expectancy of sixty-six years; women, of seventy-five years.

Secular Celebrations

There are thirteen official state holidays. They are: New Year's Day (1 and 2 January); Chinese New Year (January/February); Thaipoosam Cavadee (January/February); Maha Shivaratree (February/March); Republic Day (12 March); Ougadi-Telegy New Year (March/April); Labor Day (1 May); Ind El Fitr (lunar); Ganesh Chaturthi (August/September); Diwali (October/November); All Saints (1 November) and Christmas (25 December).

The Arts and Humanities

Performance Arts. Popular music from the West and from India are widely listened to. The only original music and the national music is Sega, a tribal-based drumbeat based on African rhythms. It has a ritualistic dance that is often done in tandem. The women dance in sensual ways to lure partners, but they are not allowed to kiss or touch.

The State of the Physical and Social Sciences

The sciences have been neglected in Mauritius at different levels since its inception. The University of Mauritius is trying to focus more energy on research and science, and the government has obtained permission and funding for a new technological university.


Alladin, Ibrahim. Economic Miracle in the Indian Ocean: Can Mauritius Show the Way?, 1993.

Allen, Richard. Slaves, Freedman, and Indentured Laborers in Colonial Mauritius, 1999.

Carroll, Barbara, and Terrance Carroll. "Accommodating Ethnic Diversity in a Modernizing Democratic State: Theory and Practice in the Case of Mauritius." Ethnic and Racial Studies 23 (1): 120142, 2000.

Nave, Ari. "Marriage and the Maintenance of Ethnic Groups Boundaries: The Case of Mauritius." Ethnic and Racial Studies 23 (2): 329352, 2000.

Selvon, Sydney. Historical Dictionary of Mauritius, 1991.

U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. 1999 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Mauritius, 2000.

Young, Crawford, ed. The Accommodation of Cultural Diversity, 1999.

David Matusky

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MAURITIUS. An Indian Ocean country and member of the COMMONWEALTH. Languages: English (official), a FRENCH-based CREOLE called Morisiê, French, HINDI, URDU, and Hakka Chinese. A French colony from 1715 and a British colony from 1810, Mauritius gained independence in 1968. The Creole minority is descended from African slaves and French settlers, the Indo-Mauritian majority from indentured labourers brought to the islands by the British after the abolition of slavery in 1833. The mixture of influences is noticeable in place-names, such as the districts of Rivière du Rempart, Pamplemousses, Flacq, Moka, Black River, Plaines Wilhems, Grand Port, Savanne. Local newspapers print articles in English and French side by side.

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Mauritius was long known to the Arabs. It was discovered by the Portuguese but settled by the Dutch who named it after Maurice of Nassau. The French East India Company took possession in 1715 and, under Mahé de la Bourdonnais, developed sugar, cotton, spice, and indigo plantations. The British captured it in 1810 and kept it as their own crown colony. When slavery was abolished, Indian indentured labour was imported to work the plantations. Representative government was established in 1947 and Mauritius became independent within the Commonwealth in 1968. In 1992 it adopted a republican constitution.

David Anthony Washbrook

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