Exports continue to be a major engine of growth for the island economy, with Mauritius now exporting more than Rs 1 billion worth of goods to each of nine countries, over Rs 500 million to three countries each and more than Rs 100 million to each of 24 countries.

Export diversification away from traditional EU markets is also on the right track, with data from Enterprise Mauritius showing that the share of exports to non-traditional markets has soared from 35% in 2008 to 56% in 2013.

Further, support to Africa-focused exporters by way of a freight subsidy of 25% up to a ceiling of $300 per container according to the November 2013 Budget announcement is expected to boost the export drive into the African market.

“Hopefully this scheme will trigger some private operator to run a regional feeder shipping facility between Mauritius and eastern African ports,” said Amédée Darga, Chairman, Enterprise Mauritius.

In order to provide a further impetus to exports, three goals need to be met, namely: more supply capacity and wider products range for exports, export of services, the Freeport.

One of the main challenges in the way of increasing exports remains the need for expanding the production capacity of the manufacturing sector and the range of products on offer. That is why, Enterprise Mauritius is constantly identifying new potential exports particularly among SMEs and getting them export ready.

Also, new distribution channels such as e-commerce, social media and mobile commerce need to be explored further, to allow Mauritian exporters to showcase their products overseas in a cost effective manner.

As Dev Chamroo, CEO, Enterprise Mauritius says, “knowing the outlines of the new multichannel distribution mode where e-commerce, social media and mobile commerce are fast catching up with established retail stores, shop-in-shop and catalogue sales is good, but not good enough.”

Starting today, the government of Mauritius will offer basic websites to SMEs for free to promote their offerings to a wider audience, within the island and overseas.

The export of services is another area that needs to be looked into. It has also been doing quite well so far but greater investments are needed to help it realize its full potential.

Export of services has grown 9% from 2011 to 2012. Of this, revenues from professional and management consulting services contribute a major chunk, having grown from Rs 19,198 million in 2010 to Rs 27,541 million in 2012.

Further, with focus on Mauritius as an ICT hub, export of IT services has more than doubled in two years from Rs 904 million in 2010 to Rs 1,915 million in 2012.

With services already showing signs of growth, a clearer distribution of responsibilities as well as stronger and more focused export promotion efforts will easily bring much more export revenue from these service sectors, particularly from African countries.

Finally, Mauritius should become a focal point for procurement from the region; by promoting not only the export of domestically produced goods but also that of goods from elsewhere that would be available at its Freeport.

However, there is still a long way to go in that regard, as re-exports from the Freeport in the first nine months of 2013 grew only 2.6% compared to the corresponding period of 2012.

Going forward, the re-establishment of the fiscal regime of the Freeport in the 2012 budget and the favorable dispensation for Freeport based industries exporting to Africa may be expected to help shape the island economy into a regional Freeport hub for other countries in Africa.

Image (via Tribune): Also, new distribution channels such as e-commerce, social media and mobile commerce need to be explored further, to allow Mauritian exporters to showcase their products overseas in a cost effective manner.

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