Off the coast of Africa, east of Madagascar, lies a glittering jewel with white, sandy beaches, lush green plantations and heavenly cuisine. Mauritius, officially the Republic of Mauritius since 1992, is the only recognised full democracy in Africa, as classified by the Economist Intelligence Unit. Unlike many other African countries, Mauritius enjoys political stability and civil liberties, and a thriving four-pillar economy that is built on tourism, sugar, textile and financial services.
Mauritius covers 2 045km². The island is dominated by mountains, rain forests, valleys and two lakes (Grand Bassin and the Mare aux Vacoas).
Mauritius consists of a number of smaller islands, including the main island of Mauritius, the island of Rodrigues, the Agalega Islands and the Cargados Carajos Shoals. Apart from these, Mauritius also claims Tromelin Island and Chagos Archipelago as its own.
In the early 16th century, Portuguese and Dutch explorers travelled to Mauritius and named the island after Maurice of Nassau, the Prince of Orange, in 1598. At the dawn of the 18th century, the French colonised Mauritius and founded its capital, Port Louis. The French conceded Mauritius, along with the Seychelles, to Britain in 1814 under the Treaty of Paris.
Mauritius developed into a democratic society between the 1970s and 1980s. In addition to being one of the continent’s oldest democracies, the island is one of the world’s longest continuous democracies, along with India, America, France, Canada and Great Britain.
Climate: Tropical, modified by southeast trade winds; warm, dry winter (May to November); hot, wet, humid summer (November to May).
Terrain: Small coastal plain, rising to discontinuous mountains encircling central plateau.
Languages: Mauritian Creole
Currency: Mauritian Rupee
President: Kailash Purryag (July 2012)
Environmental issues: Water pollution, deforestation, degradation of coral reefs.
Gross domestic product (GDP) by sector* (percentage of GDP):
Budget*: Revenues: $2,411 billion
Expenditures: $2,773 billion
Exchange rates**: 1,00 Mauritian rupee (MUR) = 0,285086 South African rand (ZAR)
1,00 MUR = 0,0322581 US dollar (USD)
1,00 MUR = 0,0246716 Euros (EUR)
** Information correct when going to print.
Total installed electricity capacity (as in 2009): 504MW
Mauritius’ power generation is dependent on fossil fuels. In 2009, 79% of the electricity generation in Mauritius was from fuel oil (diesel and heavy fuel oil), kerosene and coal, with the rest of the energy reliant on hydro (5%) and bagasse* plants.
Mauritius has a nominal installed capacity of 442MW, with a total energy production of 2,274GWh. Rodrigues Island had a nominal installed capacity of 11,5MW that generated 31,5GWh during 2009, with 95,9% of the electricity generated derived from fuel oil, and the balance of 4,1% was provided by small wind farms.
The island of Agalega currently has no electric utility. The 300 inhabitants of the island are supplied with electricity by small diesel generators, operating in three isolated mini-grids under the responsibility of the Outer Islands Development Corporation.
*Bagasse is the fibrous matter that remains after sugarcane or sorghum stalks are crushed to extract their juice. <please insert at end of subheading-paragraph, ‘Energy Profile’>
Primary energy supply (2010)
• Petroleum products: 31,47%
• Coal: 29,2%
• Bagasse: 15,9%
• Kerosene: 9,3%
• Gasoline: 9%
• LPG: 4,5%
• Hydro: 0,63%
Mauritius relies on imported petroleum products to meet its energy requirements, as it has none of its own oil, natural gas or coal reserves. In 2010, imported fossil fuels accounted for about 83,4% of its total primary energy requirements.
The Mauritian government has been advocating a shift from conventional fossil fuels to renewable sources for a long time. Since the first power plant in Mauritius was built in 1906 and with the construction of seven additional hydropower stations to date, the share of fossil fuels has been gradually increasing and has now become the main component in the energy mix for electricity generation.
With the continued increase in the prices of fossil fuels over the years, the government turned its attention to renewable energy sources (bagasse, hydro, solar and wind) with the implementation of the Bagasse Energy Development Plan in the 1990s, which allowed for a significant increase in the share of bagasse in the generation of electricity. The government has also renewed its interest in the development of renewable energy, with 22% of its electricity already generated from bagasse and hydro. Mauritius is an international leader in this field – however, most of its hydro resources have been tapped, while the potential increase in the use of bagasse and its generation efficiency are being pursued.
2,889 billion kWh.
Electricity – consumption:
2,687 billion kWh.
Electricity – installed generating capacity:
Electricity – from fossil fuels: 75,2% of total installed capacity.
Electricity – from hydroelectric plants:
6,7% of total installed capacity.
Electricity – from other renewable sources:
18,1% of total installed capacity.
Carbon dioxide emissions from consumption of energy:
4,545 million Mt.
While the country’s macroeconomic performance has proven to be strong, the fragility and uncertainty of the global economic environment continues to threaten Mauritius’ economic recovery.
The country’s GDP grew by 4,2% in 2010, driven by a recovery in tourism and a strong performance in financial services, transport and communication, and fisheries.
The momentum eased in 2011 with GDP growth having slowed to 4,1% as the Euro suffered a dramatic downturn.
Having pursued structural reforms since 2006, Mauritius has achieved a strong policy and institutional environment, earning a premier position in Africa on many fronts.
On the economic front, their policy framework remains consistent with the overall macroeconomic framework. Through the Economic Restructuring and Competitiveness Programme (ERCP) between 2010 and 2012, Mauritian authorities have been innovative by combining the country’s medium-term economic growth and diversification strategy with short-term response measures.
Mauritius currently tops the list on the Ibrahim Index of African Governance for the fifth year running, according to the 2011 report. Significant progress has also been made in environmental policies and regulations. Apart from the sustainable-growth objective of the Maurice Île Durable (MID) programme, the Mauritian government introduced carbon tax and “green” taxes in the 2011 budget to improve energy-efficiency and scale up renewable energy.
Natural resources and environment
Mauritius has 350km² of forest area, which represents 17,2% of its total land area.
A government division on climate change was set up in 2010 and is implementing the Africa Adaptation Programme (AAP). The government’s strategy in relation to natural resource management, environment and climate change is contained in the Maurice Île Durable (MID) Programme, which was approved in 2008. In 2011, a “green paper”, towards a national policy for a sustainable Mauritius, was published.
An MID strategy and programme of action is under preparation. In line with the MID programme objectives, the government also introduced in the 2011 budget a form of carbon tax and “green” taxes on a number of plastic products. The goal is to improve energy-efficiency and scale up renewable energy in order to reduce dependency on fossil fuels from 80% to 65% by 2025. The country is already using bagasse from sugar for energy generation. An Energy-Efficiency Act was authorised Take extra space out in 2011 and an Energy Strategy for 2011-15 has been approved, although an energy regulatory body remains non-operational.
A diamond in the rough
In the last decade, Mauritius has moved from being one of East Africa’s poorest nations to being one of the developing world’s most prosperous countries. From the 1970s onwards, the national government has stepped up efforts to improve the human development on the island – from health, education and nutrition to employment. The multi-cultural island is, unlike other countries on the Development Index, not blessed with natural resources such as oil, diamonds and gold. This means that the tourism and sugar industries have almost single-handedly transformed Mauritius into an established middle-income country.
Full thanks and acknowledgement are given to www.cia.gov, www.data.un.org and www.reegle.info for the information given to write this article.