Mauritius’ location between Asia and Africa places the island in a busy causeway of cross-border trade, activity that demands an increasingly sophisticated array of financial services. In response, the island’s banking sector is now compounding its core strengths through financial innovation, staking a claim to its role as the transcontinental conduit for investment management.
Numerous ingredients have merited Mauritius’ rise in the world of global finance, including a squeaky-clean business reputation that distinguishes the Indian Ocean island as a upholder of law on the African continent, a fact that has led business leaders to compare it to other major finance hubs. “I think Mauritius has the credibility and standing to become a regional financial hub for Africa,” says Alain Law Min, CEO of Mauritius Commercial Bank (MCB), the country’s oldest and largest domestic banking institution.
“It is an attractive and compliant jurisdiction with political stability, a bilingual workforce, strong capa- bilities and competencies in legal, accountancy, capital market and wealth management services,” Law Min said.
It doesn’t hurt that Mauritius also leads the continent when in applying new technology, having been recognized by the Global Innovation Index as the most innovative nation in Africa. At MCB, this continent-leading aptitude is readily observable. “Three years ago we introduced MCB Juice, our mobile payments platform, and today we have 90,000 customers that have downloaded the mobile app,” Law Min announces to the China Daily. “Imagine, our Internet banking customer base is 120,000 and that took us 20 years to reach, but in only three years we built our mobile customer base and it’s not far short of that size. That’s very significant growth.”
Financial technology, also called fintech, is finding a place as a tool not just to improve customer service, but also to mitigate financial risks, a service that is sure to get a welcome reception from prospective investors entering Africa for the first time. “While most innovations in banking revolve around customer outreach, State Bank Mauritius also uses technology for effective management of risks and compliance,” says Kee Chong Li Kwong Wing, Chairman of State Bank Mauritius.
Such protective measures taken by Mauritian banks using fintech will only add to their capacity for managing cross-border transactions. This historic moment for the island has been further propelled by banks such as SBM, which are preparing to bolster their continental network in turn. “SBM is positioning itself as gateway for global investors looking at emerging opportunities in Africa,” says Li Kwong Wing. “We are partnering with the African Export-Import Bank to tap new opportunities, and we recently acquired Fidelity Bank in Kenya,” he announces, adding: “This will help us offer safe, secure and comprehensive services for Chinese businesses going into Africa.”