Jane Valls, CEO of the Mauritius Institute of Directors (MIoD), spoke to AfricaMoney on how Africa cannot realize its growth potential without good corporate governance. She noted that Mauritius had made great strides in corporate governance since 2004 when the national Code of Corporate Governance was introduced and has been ranked first for the seventh consecutive year in the Mo Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG) 2013.

  • What are the key achievements of MIoD since it started operations in Mauritius?

The Mauritius Institute of Directors was incorporated in 2008 and is mandated under the Financial Reporting Act 2004 to promote Corporate Governance in the private and public sector. We are still a very young Institute of Directors, yet a very active and dynamic one, with more than 950 individual members. We provide a range of services including public and in-house training workshops, the independent Directors Register, Board Evaluations and Corporate Governance Assessments.

We launched the Director Development Programme in January 2010 and our Business Ethics programme in collaboration with the Ethics Institute of South Africa in October 2010. In September 2011 we held our first International Conference on Corporate Governance & Sustainability. We launched the Directors Forum in January 2012, and in July 2013 the MIoD and KPMG set up the Audit Committee Forum.

  • Do you think there is progress in terms of good governance in Mauritius? Any key instances you’d like to highlight?

There is definitely progress in Mauritius. Since the introduction in 2004 of the national Code of Corporate Governance, there has been a lot of focus on good corporate governance. The very fact that our membership at the MIOD has nearly reached 1,000 individual members and we continue to receive nearly 15 new applications a month, as well as the attendance at our workshops and the demand for our services shows that there is interest and progress. The revision of the Code of Corporate Governance this year will ensure that Mauritius stays at the forefront of good corporate governance in Africa. Mauritius has been ranked first for the seventh consecutive year in the Mo Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG) 2013. To attract direct investment and be the gateway to Africa, Mauritius must maintain its No.1 position.

  • In what ways does Sustainability Reporting help local companies to prosper and attract new investments?

It is important to realise that yesteryear’s economic model was based on two false assumptions that: 1) there were limitless resources in nature and 2) that planet earth had an infinite capacity to absorb waste. We also know that the world’s biggest problems need multi-stakeholder solutions: environmental sustainability, poverty, corruption. These problems cannot be resolved without the contribution of business and this is recognized in the Millennium Development Goals and the United Nations Global Compact. So if society gives business access to natural resources, human capital, markets, government protections (we call this “the social contract”), then business has a “licence to operate” as long as it commits to being a good corporate citizen.

Companies today are expected to report not only on their financial results but also on their impact on society and the environment, their corporate governance and their ethics. Corporate Sustainability is becoming a competitive advantage and reputational differentiator, besides making good business sense. GRI provides a framework for this integrated sustainability reporting. The MIoD and its technical partner, Ecological Living in Action (ELIA), have just been appointed as a GRI Training Centre in Mauritius.

  • You have recently been appointed Chairman of the African Corporate Governance Network. What are the objectives and purpose of the ACGN?

The setting up of African Corporate Governance Network was spearheaded by the Mauritius Institute of Directors and the Institute of Directors Southern Africa with the support of the NEPAD Business Foundation (NBF). It was officially launched in Mauritius on the 16th October 2013 in the presence of the founding members. The ACGN was formed to develop institutional member capacity for enhancing corporate governance practices for building better organizations and corporate citizens in Africa. It will provide policymakers and market participants with an important forum to exchange experiences and best practices aimed at addressing ongoing corporate governance challenges in Africa.

The objectives of the ACGN are to exchange and share knowledge, information, best practices tools and resources, demonstrate good practice within member organizations to achieve their goals, create a common platform for advocacy, initiatives and communications, expand the network, create a favorable investment climate and conduct research.

  • Finally, please provide your views on the way forward for good governance in Mauritius.

The National Committee on Corporate Governance is undertaking this year a revision of the Code of Corporate Governance and this will be an opportunity to review the Code and bring it up to date with the latest global best practices. I believe the way forward is to build on the progress that has been made so far and encourage more independent directors on boards, the continuous professional development of directors, board evaluations, more emphasis on developing ethical and sustainable business cultures, and greater shareholder engagement.

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