Mauritius
Star and Key of the Indian Ocean
Geography
• Together with Réunion and Rodrigues, Mauritius is part
of the Mascarene Islands. This archipelago was formed
in a series of undersea volcanic eruptions 8-10 million
years ago, as the African plate drifted over the Réunion
hotspot. They are no longer volcanically active, and the
hotspot now rests under Réunion. The island of
Mauritius itself is formed around a central plateau, with
its highest peak in the southwest, Piton de la Petite
Rivière Noire at 828 meters (2,717 ft). Around the
plateau, the original crater can still be distinguished from
several mountains.
Climate
• The climate is tropical, modified by southeast
trade winds. There is a warm, dry winter from
May to November and a hot, wet, and humid
summer from November to May. Anti-cyclones
affect the country during May to
September. Cyclones affect the country during
November-April. Hollanda (1994) and Dina
(2002) were the worst two last cyclones to have
affected the island.
History
• The island was known by Arab and Austronesian sailors as early as the 10th
century. The Portuguese sailors first visited it in 1507 and established a
visiting base leaving the island uninhabited.
• Three ships of the eight Dutch Second Fleet that were sent to the Spice
Islands were blown off course during a cyclone and landed on the island in
1598, naming it in honor of Prince Maurice of Nassau, the Stadtholder of the
Netherlands. In 1638, the Dutch established the first permanent settlement.
Because of tough climatic conditions including cyclones and the
deterioration of the settlement, the Dutch abandoned the island a few
decades later.
• France, which already controlled the neighboring Île Bourbon (now Réunion)
seized Mauritius in 1715 and later renamed it Île de France (Isle of France).
Under French rule, the island developed a prosperous economy based on
sugar production. In the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815) the British set out to
gain control of the island. Despite winning the Battle of Grand Port,
Napoleon's only naval victory over the British, the French surrendered to a
British invasion at Cap Malheureux three months later. They formally
surrendered on 3 December 1810, on terms allowing settlers to keep their
land and property and to use the French language and law of France in
criminal and civil matters.
History
• Under British rule, the island's name reverted to the
original Mauritius. In 1965, the United Kingdom split the Chagos
Archipelago from Mauritius to create the British Indian Ocean
Territory in order to use the strategic islands for defense
purposes in co-operation with the United States. Although the
Government of Mauritius agreed to the move at the
time, subsequent administrations have laid claim to the islands
stating that the divestment was illegal under international law, a
claim recognized by the United Nations.
• Mauritius attained independence in 1968, and the country
became a republic within the Commonwealth in 1992. Mauritius
has been a stable democracy with regular free elections and a
positive human rights record, and has attracted considerable
foreign investment earning one of Africa's highest per capita
incomes.
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Population (2007) 1,264,866 2 (151st)
Hinduism is the majority religion in Mauritius followed by Christianity and Islam arrives in third
position. Buddhist and Chinese faiths are also found. Hindus make up 52%, Christians 28%, Islam at 14.4%
and other unspecified religions or atheists round up to 2% . There is supposedly also a significant migrant
population of Bhumihar Brahmins in Mauritius who have made a mark for themselves in different
fields. Churches and Chinese and Dravidian Tamil pagodas and temples are found in large numbers.
However, in Mauritius, many people seem to confuse the term 'ethnicity' with 'religion'. For example, those
who are not of Asian descents are called Creole; furthermore, they are referred as the 'general population',
meaning that they are unclassified. The Creole community is nowadays advocating for an identity.
The official language of Mauritius is English. All government administrative documents are therefore drawn up
in English. Article 49 of the constitution also allows any member of the National Assembly of Mauritius to
address the chair in French. Together with English, Mauritian Creole is also used in instructions in the
educational system. However, all exams are taken in English as the education system follows the British
education system. The majority of students in primary schools are taught an oriental language. Though
French predominates in the media, a big proportion of television and radio programming are in oriental
languages. In business and in corporate affairs, English and Creole prevail. The most widely-spoken
language is Mauritian Creole, which has close ties with French pronunciation, but with a few marked
differences. Mauritian Creole is considered to be the native tongue of the country. Most Creoles are Christian.
Hindus include Bhojpuri, Marathi, Tamil and Telugu speakers, Muslims descended from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar
and from Gujrat, mainly Surat. The Sino-Mauritian community follow mainly Roman Catholicism, Buddhism
and Confucian traditions.
The cuisine of Mauritius is a blend of Indian, Creole, Chinese and European influences. It is common for a
combination of cuisines to form part of the same meal. The production of rum is widespread on the island.
Sugarcane was first introduced to Mauritius by the Dutch in 1638. The Dutch mainly cultivated sugarcane for
the production of "arrack", a precursor to rum. However, it was during the French and British administrations
that sugar production was fully exploited, which considerably contributed to the economical development of
the island. Pierre Charles François Harel was the first to propose the concept of local distillation of rum in
Mauritius, in 1850.
People
People
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The Sega is a local folklore music. Sega has African roots, and main traditional instruments for
producing the music are goat-skin percussion instruments called ravane and metallic clicks using
metal triangles. The songs usually describe the miseries of slavery, and has been adapted nowadays
as social satires to voice out inequalities as felt by the blacks. Men are usually at the instruments
while women perform an accompanying dance which is more often erotic.
In 1847, Mauritius became the fifth location in the world to issue postage stamps. The two types of
stamps issued then, known as the Mauritius "Post Office“ stamps, consisting of a "Red Penny" and a
"Blue Two Pence" denomination, are probably the most famous and valuable stamps in the world.
When it was discovered, the island of Mauritius was the home of a previously unknown species of
bird, which the Portuguese named the dodo (simpleton), as they appeared to be not too bright. By
1681, all dodos had been killed by the settlers or by their pets. An alternate theory suggests that the
imported wild boars that were set free destroyed the slow-breeding dodo population. The dodo is
prominently featured as a supporter of the national coat-of-arms.
The island has also given rise to a diversified literature, prominent in the French, English, and Creole
languages. Mauritius should also be discovered in the back-country, where the culture is highly
contrasting with what is seen in the cities. Recreational activities in Mauritius are quite varied to
support the local tourism industry. Water sports are facilitated as the island is surrounded with coral
reef, providing plenty of relatively shallow and calm water. Activities such as deep sea fishing,
windsurfing, water-skiing, cruising in yachts and even submarines are some of the many water based
recreations available. Land based leisure activities include deer hunting, quad & mountain
biking, abseiling, zip lining, horse riding and trekking, but are only often practiced by the rich society.
Life expectancy - 74 years.
Infant mortality rate - 12.2/1000 (low)
Politics
• Mauritius is a parliamentary democracy similar in structure
to the United Kingdom. The head of state of Mauritius is
the President, who is elected for a five-year term by
the National Assembly, the Mauritian parliament. The
National Assembly consists of 62 members elected directly
by popular vote, with between four and eight further
members appointed from "best losers" election candidates
to represent ethnic minorities, if these are underrepresented after the elections. The government is headed
by the prime minister and a council of ministers. The
Government is elected on a five-year basis.
• The most recent general elections took place on July 3
2005 in all the 20 mainland constituencies, as well as the
constituency covering the island of Rodrigues. Historically,
elections have tended to be a contest between two major
coalitions of parties.
Politics
• In international affairs, Mauritius is part of
the Indian Ocean Commission, the Southern
African Development Community and
theCommonwealth of Nations and La
Francophonie (French speaking countries),
amongst others. In 2006, Mauritius asked to
be an observing member of Community of
Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP) in
order to become closer to those countries.
• President - Sir Anerood Jugnauth
• Prime Minister - Navin Ramgoolam
Economy
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GDP - (PPP)2007 estimate - Total$14.026 billion - Per capita $11,125
GDP - (nominal)2007 estimate - Total $6.928 billion - Per capita $5,495
Currency – Mauritian rupee = $.03 US
Despite having a low GDP, Mauritius is widely regarded as a developed country
as the GDP is enough for all 1.3 million people.
Since independence in 1968, Mauritius has developed from a lowincome, agriculturally based economy to a middle income diversified economy
with growing industrial, financial, and tourist sectors. For most of the period,
annual growth has been of the order of 5% to 6%. This has been reflected in
increased life expectancy, lowered infant mortality and an
improved infrastructure.
Estimated at US$10,155 for 2005 at purchasing power parity (PPP), Mauritius
has the seventh-highest GDP per capita in Africa. The economy is mainly
dependent on sugarcane plantations, tourism, textiles, and services, but other
sectors are rapidly developing as well. Mauritius, Libya, and Seychelles are the
only three African nations with a "high" Human Development Index rating. Sugar
cane is grown on about 90% of the cultivated land area and accounts for 25%
of export earnings. However, a record-setting drought severely damaged the
sugar crop in 1999. The government's development strategy centers on foreign
investment.
Economy
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Mauritius has attracted more than 9,000 offshore entities; many aimed at commerce in
India and South Africa while investment in the banking sector alone has reached over
$1 billion. Economic performance during the period from 2000 through 2004 combined
strong economic growth with unemployment at 7.6% in December 2004. France is the
country's biggest trading partner, has close ties with the country, and provides technical
assistance in various forms.
In order to provide locals with access to imports at lower prices and attract more tourists
going to Singapore and Dubai, Mauritius is gearing towards becoming a duty-free island
within the next four years. Duty has been eliminated for several products and decreased
for more than 1850 products including clothing, food, jewelry, photographic equipment,
audio visual equipment and lighting equipment. In addition, reforms aimed at attracting
new business opportunities have also been implemented. But, one of the biggest black
spot is the traffic movement between the towns, which is slowing the development of
Mauritius. The corporate tax has recently been reduced to 15% to encourage non resident
companies to trade or invest through a permanent establishment or otherwise.
A plan by ADB Networks calls for Mauritius to become the first nation to have coast-tocoast wireless internet access. The wireless hot spot currently covers about 60% of the
island and is accessible by about 70% of its population.
Mauritius ranks first among all countries in FDI inflows to India, with cumulative inflows
amounting to US$10.98 billion. The top sectors attracting FDI inflows from Mauritius
between January 2000 and December 2005 were electrical equipment,
telecommunications, fuels, cement and gypsum products and services sector (financial
and non-financial)
Bibliography
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