From beaches to business: The evolution of Mauritius
David Seinker, CEO of The Business Exchange, discusses the evolution of Maurtius.
Mention Mauritius, and most South Africans will think of its pristine beaches and luxury resorts, but this small country is becoming a big business player not only in Africa but on a global scale, says David Seinker, of The Business Exchange.
Mauritius may just be an island – its annual tourist influx of 1.4 million outnumbers its own population of around 1.3 million – but this hasn’t stopped it, over the past three decades, from growing into a giant on the business front.
As far as the continent goes, it’s already racked up a number of African “firsts” in terms of international business achievements. These include Economic Freedom of the World (2017, Fraser Institute), Forbes Survey of Best Countries for Business (2017) and the Global Competitiveness Index (2017-2018).
It also secured first place in Africa and 25th position overall out of 190 countries on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Report, receiving recognition in terms of its political, social and economic stability, efficient and effective regulatory framework, state-of the-art infrastructure, transparent and innovative legal framework and its highly competitive tax system. With a government focused on promoting foreign and domestic investment, it has enabled free repatriation of profits, no withholding tax on dividends, interest and royalties, no capital gains tax, and no estate duty, inheritance tax or gift tax. Plus it has 44 tax treaties with countries across the globe, and another 32 in various stages of negotiation and ratification.
Together with its low tax rates, its fiscal regime has seen it being listed in 2017 on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) “white list” in terms of transparency and being a fully compliant tax jurisdiction in terms of best practice international standards. It was, indeed, one of only three such top-rated jurisdictions in the world.
It is welcoming foreigners with open arms and – as a country in Africa – it’s certainly giving South Africa a run for its money.
Along with 4% growth in its economy, its reputation is also growing for being the best financial hub and base for businesses coming to Africa. Investors from places such as France, India, and the UK – not to mention South Africa itself – are all seeing it as a safe place to set up shop. It’s why we, as The Business Exchange (TBE) with our own home base in South Africa, have set up our latest co-working space here, to meet the growing demand for office space on the island. It’s a destination we believe is out-investing South Africa
A safe investment climate, efficient financial infrastructure and political stability are always going to be highly conducive towards attracting and conducting business. Little over an hour longer in flying time than the time it takes to travel between Cape Town and Johannesburg, the third smallest country in Africa is therefore becoming an attractive destination in which to live, work, play and stay… quite possibly forever.
Its private and government institutions are strong. Good schooling (in English with French as a second language), state-of-the-art healthcare facilities, and a low crime rate are starting to see a number of South Africans turning their heads north in its direction – families as well as companies.
As a property ownership destination, it’s already been proving its worth for a number of years now, initially for holiday and second homes but, today, increasingly for residency, relocation and retirement. A huge attraction for investors and in particular those looking to attain passive rental income, has been its property development schemes for foreign non-citizen investment. An investment of $500 000 or more in a PDS will also grant an investor permanent residence status.
And, as we ourselves have found as TBE, there’s a great deal that’s attractive to invest in from a business perspective as well. Not only is there an ideal opportunity for us to service the rapidly growing need for professional office space on the island, we’ve also decided to use the country as the perfect base from which to launch our own growth into the rest of Africa. Legislation around setting up companies and ownership structures in Mauritius are quite straightforward, and relatively simple to administer with the right partners and advisors on board.
It may well have been a place of beaches to start with, a few decades ago – and, believe me, those pristine sands are still just as beautiful – but its business opportunities are now among its biggest attractions. And as South Africa continues to reflect uncertainty, I’ve no doubt that Mauritius’s positive offerings will continue to grow even brighter.
For more information on business topics in the Middle East and Africa, please take a look at the latest edition of Business Chief MEA.
5 minutes with... Janthana Kaenprakhamroy, CEO, Tapoly
Founder and CEO of award-winning insurtech firm Tapoly, Janthana Kaenprakhamroy heads up Europe’s first on-demand insurance platform for the gig economy, winning industry awards, innovating in the digital insurance space, and leading with inclusivity.
Here, Business Chief talks to Janthana about her leadership style and skills.
What do you do, in a nutshell?
I’m founder and CEO of Tapoly, a digital MGA providing a full stack of commercial lines insurance specifically for SMEs and freelancers, as well as a SaaS solution to connect insurers with their distribution partners. We build bespoke, end-to-end platforms encompassing the whole customer journey, but can also integrate our APIs within existing systems. We were proud to win Insurance Provider of the Year at the British Small Business Awards 2018 and receive silver in the Insurtech category at the Efma & Accenture Innovation in Insurance Awards 2019.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I try to be as inclusive a leader as possible. I’m committed to creating space for everyone to shine. Many of the roles at Tapoly are performed by women and I speak at industry events to encourage more people to get involved in insurance/insurtech. Similarly, I always try to maintain a growth mindset. I think it’s important to retain values to support learning and development, like reliability, working hard and punctuality.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
Build your network and seek advice. As a leader, you need smart people around you to help you grow your business. It’s not about personally being the best, but being able to find resources and get help where needed.
How do you see leadership changing in a COVID world?
I think the pandemic has proven the importance of inclusive leadership so that everyone feels supported and valued. It’s also shown the importance of being flexible as a leader. We’ve had to remain adaptable to continue delivering high levels of customer service. This flexibility has also been important when supporting employees as everyone has had individual pressures to deal with during this time. Leaders should continue to embed this flexibility within their organisations moving forward.
They say ‘from every crisis comes opportunity’, what opportunities do you see?
The past year has been challenging, but it has also proven the importance of digital transformation in insurance. When working from home was required, it was much harder for insurers to adjust who had not embedded technology within their operating processes because they did not have data stored in the cloud and it caused communication delays with concerned customers at a time when this communication should have been a priority, which ultimately impacts the level of customer satisfaction. This demonstrates the importance of what we are trying to achieve at Tapoly in driving digitalisation in insurance and making communication between insurers and distribution partners seamless.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
Start sooner, don’t be afraid to take (calculated) risks and make sure you raise enough money to get you through the initial seed stage.