The Mauritian Financial Services Promotion Agency (FSPA) operates under the aegis of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development with a mandate to develop and promote the island as an International Financial Centre (IFC) of excellence. Harvesh Seegolam, Chief Executive of the FSPA, tells us why Mauritius is an ideal jurisdiction for managing cross-continental transactions.
Can you give us a background of Mauritius’ financial sector and how it is distinguished from others in Africa today?
Mauritius’ financial centre started back in the late-1980s when previous legislation was amended to facilitate the emergence of financial services. Since then, the country has been evolving into a financial centre of excellence. Over the years, Mauritius has developed very good bilateral relations with many emerging markets in the African continent. For instance, if you look at the number of bilateral investment treaties with Africa, Mauritius has signed 21 double taxation agreements as well as 23 investment promotion and protection agreements. Investors are in search of ecosystems that have stable financial centres, solid infrastructure and are politically well supported. Mauritius ticks all the right boxes.
How does FSPA meet the challenge of promoting Mauritius’ high standards of fiduciary responsibility in Africa?
We are offering the world a financial centre of excellence. That means that we meet, operate and adhere to all the best practices that are expected for financial centres. For example, Mauritius is whitelisted by the OECD and is classified as being largely compliant to its set of standards. In addition to this, we ensure that we also adhere to the best norms that exist in the industry and we have always been highly regarded by institutions like the World Bank and the IMF.
What new initiatives are currently being implemented?
The FSPA has been working with relevant stakeholders on new products that Mauritius needs in order to maintain its competitiveness. All our efforts are reflected in the 2016-2017 budget that was presented by the Minister of Finance, where he introduced a new scheme for regional headquartering. Today, all major companies and multi-nationals that are looking to invest in Africa can have their headquarters in Mauritius. In addition, we have a new scheme for family offices, attracting high net worth individuals to manage their wealth from Mauritius. We also have a scheme to ease the establishment of investment banks on the Mauritian territory, contrary to how it was previously, where adequate opportunities and facilities were not available to investors. While I was in China I met with over ten companies that are already en route to expand their operations outside China with the affinity to venture in Africa. The FSPA has presented the Mauritius platform and with much ease, convinced them to use Mauritius as their base, while they are exploring different opportunities.
High net worth individuals are expected to double in China by 2020. Did you have the chance in China to tap into this group?
In China, we have noticed a rising number of high net worth individuals who are looking to explore financial centres of substance. To this end, the Mauritian government has introduced the family office scheme that would allow rich individuals and families to de facto manage their wealth from Mauritius by having a family office here. Our targeted markets are certainly African countries, however, we also welcome high net worth individuals who are interested in other jurisdictions as well.
Can you elaborate on advancements made in the field of financial services?
Over the years we have successfully attracted several international brands to our country. Today, the financial sector has more than 15,000 people employed and, accounts for 12% of the country’s GDP. Likewise it is the second largest single contributor to the GDP of Mauritius after the manufacturing sector. A credible and secure platform has today been established where international investors may hedge their foreign currency when trading with African countries. As a result, we have set up this new exchange that is known as the MINDEX, the Mauritius International Derivatives and Commodities Exchange. MINDEX will offer a derivatives platform where people can hedge their risk in African currencies against other major currencies, such as the USD, the EUR, and the GBP.