Arnaud Lagesse is the Group CEO of IBL Ltd, the largest business conglomerate in Mauritius. He is one of the youngest leaders of the Mauritian private sector, having two years ago initiated the merger of GML investment Ltd and Ireland Blyth Ltd, creating a successful conglomerate whose share price has risen by more than 90% since July 2016. Lagesse reflects on the progress of Mauritius’ economy.
How would you describe the impact IBL has in Mauritius today?
IBL is Mauritius’ largest group in size, both in terms of turn over, market cap (excluding the banking sector) and number of employees (more than 22,000). The Group is a major player in the nine sectors in which we operate: Agro, Hospitality, Building and Engineering, Manufacturing and Processing, Property, Life, Commerce, Logistics and Financial Services. Visionary founders built our Group and we inherited their bold entrepreneurial spirit that drives the bottom up approach to our businesses today.
How would you assess Mauritius’ economic situation at present?
Mauritius is going through a transformational phase. Our diversified economy is learning to adapt itself to numerous changes in consumer expectations and habits and to new ways of doing business. In an island like ours, small by its size but big in its potential, we have to constantly be open to the world and maintain a culture of curiosity, excellence and innovation.
What is the biggest challenge Mauritius faces today?
The biggest challenge Mauritius faces today is the attraction, development and retention of human capital. New industries, new processes and evolving tech entice the need of specific expertise. On one side, we need to attract those talents, some of which are not present on the island, and on the other we need to create appropriate educational channels and opportunities to ensure that evolving Mauritian industries will be appropriately staffed in the future.
What is IBL’s expansion strategy into Africa and, indeed, more globally?
Our Group also aims to execute our regional expansion plan, a part in which Africa is very important. We therefore opened a regional office in Nairobi to affirm our presence and facilitate relationships and partnerships in SADC/COMESA region. Moreover, we wish to consolidate our international presence through world-class professional expertise. For example, our hospitality expertise through the LUX* brand has been recognised and adopted in various parts of the world. Our banking sector, represented by AfrAsia Bank, with its client-centric approach and bold attitude also expands rapidly in the region and beyond.
How would you assess Mauritius’ competitiveness as Africa’s business hub?
Mauritius is ideally situated and structured to be Africa’s preferred partner. Moreover, the legal and fiscal context that rules our relations with this continent and those who want to invest in Africa allows an ideal positioning to facilitate business or investment. However, all industries or fields are not equal in their relationship to Africa. For example, the Global Business market is a flourishing one and Mauritian firms have established strong networks throughout the big continent. IBL’s agro sector has equally been successful in expanding into African countries. But the manufacturing and processing sector has encountered more obstacles and struggles to establish a working relationship.