Mauritius, a Cyber-island (finally) with a new mindset ?

From 18 March 2020, Mauritius is under confinement. The much dreaded scenario finally reached our shores. My last blog was posted four days before the confinement was initiated by the government. From then, one can guess, so many things happened. I kept observing the situation, and in a view to bring my contribution, opened a Covid-19 in Mauritius Facebook where every Creole & French spoken content is translated in English for my English-speaking friends.

On the island, French & Creole are most commonly spoken and also adopted by officers / Ministers when addressing a larger public

As anticipated, the rumors and fake news started to flood media, mostly social media. Someone rightly said that the social media is a platform where any fool believes he is a genius. Well, Mauritius being no exception, the usual panic started to show itself : in supermarket (panic buying), petrol stations (panic refueling), toilet paper / sanitizer and masks (panic panic!)… the usual stuff we saw on TV going on in other countries. Even if we were not accustomed to certain products, because it was subject to panic buying (again, as seen on TV), many created their own artificial rush and naturally shortage & scarcity followed. This Walking Dead kind of scenario lasted around a couple weeks. And then the commercial revolution took place; the ‘cyber-island people’ finally resorted to e-commerce !

It required a disaster (if I may call it) for us to finally adopt what we were pretending to be for years. a CYBER-ISLAND !

Suddenly all the stakeholders started to trust the system & worked towards its implementation; business owners, delivery people and the market. Banks were no longer that skeptical, authorities accepted this idea of business … the market understood that it could be interesting to stay at home, pay online and get delivered what you want. All understood that there was another way of doing business. Suddenly and after years that entrepreneurs desperately tried to ignite e-commerce on the island  Work-at-home took shape… finally, CYBER-ISLAND we see you.

Let’s note that Mauritius is ZERO Covid-19 infected. We are now on the 20th day with ZERO infection, at the time this article is being written. We had 332 infections, unfortunately 10 deaths but 322 recovered.

Talking about the Cyber-island, it’s more of a wild revolution in the business world theese days. Some headless chickens running here and there. Everyday a new expert in e-commerce takes birth. The island is today infested (sorry for the word, but I don’t have any equivalent replacement) with all sort of e-commerce specialists; selling website, market-places, super-efficient e-commerce boosting tools and what not. Suddenly there are many experts claiming experience (and success stories) in a NEW industry. So be it. Contract car companies, fleet managers and tour operators, among others, are transforming themselves into delivery agents. Why not, this is an opportunity not be missed. But like every new industry, many will auto-eliminate themselves.

But let’s stick to the positives, e-commerce is here !

A wink at those looking forward to work, retire or invest in Mauritius: the doors to the island are still closed. It will remain so until and unless we are comfortable that the pandemic is contained on the international front. You can plan your relocation in its concept and take advice but there’s no guarantee that the rules will be the same. In fact, we anticipate that the Government will come with new measures to further encourage foreign direct investment. Remember, we have no natural resources and tourism is in a coma. So we will definitely need new ways to bring in investment, create jobs and relive the market. As usual, updates in this area will be documented, interpreted and explained here. So stay tuned. Click on follow to get instant notifications of our posts in the future.

Final word; Covid-19 reminded all mankind that we have a ‘thinking’ faculty. The survival mode has triggered more brain activity than ever witnessed before. We don’t know how long this virus will be around but for me personally, the much awaited change in mentality is happening. Now, we come to realize our vulnerability; we are no longer this invincible race born with a right to abuse our Planet.

I wish you all well. Stay safe !

Nadeem Mosafeer


















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Corona virus & Mauritius

Corona is probably the most used word these days, not for its usual meaning though.

The world seems to be at crossroads, not really knowing which road leads to what destination. Apprehensions everywhere. Everyone is vigilant and the idea that we are walking on eggs has entered every mind. Mauritius is not exception, but we have been somewhat caught off-guard. I’m not going into the technical information on Covid19, I think there are people far more qualified are already doing an excellent job at this level.

I’d rather stick to what I know best; the Mauritian way of handling things ! There’s one important thing a non-Mauritian should understand ;

Many Mauritians think the island is blessed and nothing will happen here. We have God’s favors and there’s absolutely no reason to panic, or even take precautions.

We haven’t had any natural calamity in the recent past (we don’t have earthquakes, volcanoes, etc) and people have always thought it will never happen here. Even when tsunamis hit Asia, we were warned that the ways were traveling down to Mauritius… Mauritian thought nothing better than to rush to the beaches to watch the ‘show’.

I’m observing similar attitude with Covid19 on the island. The confinement rules were taken more as holiday than anything else, by many. People were on beaches with their families, took selfies, posted on social media … well, what normal people would do, in normal circumstances. People rushed to supermarkets, bought every gas bottle they could – created their own panic.  In this process many have been infected. A 20 year old girl who visited several supermarkets, is now lying in a very serious state in a special Covid19 hospital.

Social distancing or precautions? Ask the guy who’s touching everything on the supermarket shelf and who puts them back again.

Mauritius is a very small and beautiful island. We could have managed this whole thing with an apparent ease. Close the borders in time and confine the whole island in itself. We didn’t, for many reasons which I’m not competent to discuss. I’d rather accept this as the best decision available to decision-makers. This little shortcoming, however, allowed for patient ZERO to land (without any effective test om landing), to wander around and contaminate several people … who in turn contaminated many others. Many others landing on the island have done the same thing, in the absence of real control. Some Mauritians, returning from abroad, have very intelligently (in their opinion) hidden their country of departure to authorities (I don’t really know how it can be possible though, but that’s what the authorities claim !).

People here are taking this thing as a taboo; hiding at home instead of contacting the authorities on apparition of symptoms. Irresponsible, unpatriotic and nonsense this is.

When confinement was announced, half (or more) of the population did only grasp half of the meaning : No work / School (very clearly understood), Stay at home (not really understood). I have the feeling that this country is most of the time listening only to half messages, only the half that suits it. The same mentality is affecting our labour force, where many understand only Rights and not Responsibilities. Where Salary is understood but not Deliverables. Business people see only Profits and not Quality or Service. But, then I’m just thinking whether this is only Mauritius or the whole human race?

Mauritians should stop taking thing lightly. It’s high time to think about the country because without country we don’t exist. The death rates are horrible. We can get ourselves washed out from the world map if we do not take this as seriously as it should be. There’s no reason to blame one party; may it be Government, Big companies, Banks or whatever the classic blame-goat has been so far. This is time to think as ONE and save ourselves.

I’m sorry, I’m unable to write more on this topic – It’s emotionally daunting.

When I started writing, it was aimed at a different angle, but the words slipped out by themselves. I have nothing to say on economics terms, finance, investment, c0mmerce, etc. I just want people to respect the confinement and save ourselves.

Good luck to all. Stay safe, stay at home.




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Thank you !

Dear readers and followers

This is the time of the year when we look back at those 364 days and reflect on the experience and emotions it brought. This is also the time when we reinvigorate ourselves and look at the future with shiny eyes…hoping to do better.

For us at Gibson & Hills Group it has again been a year full of promises, achievements and disappointments, at times. It is for us a time to remind ourselves of all people who played a part in our lives; the team, the authorities, officers, clients, candidates in our recruitment process who found a job and all those in the background just reading our articles and liking our posts on social media.

You are all very important to us !

We convey to you our best wishes for a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous new year 2020. May all your dreams come true.

Beyond everything, we thank you for being part of us, for your trust, patience and cooperation.

We hope to serve you even better next year.

Gibson & Hilla

Thank you

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Mauritius, post-elections – continuity

The general elections are well behind. a government already chosen, constituted and operational. Besides the allegations of irregularities (not to say fraud), there’s nothing much left to say. Mauritians seems to have voted for continuity, carrying the previous regime to office again. The government is constituted with a nice blend of new faces and old-grey-haired experienced officers. What does a general election or a change of government really mean to Mauritius? Let’s have a brief outlook.

I’m not a political expert or analyst ; just the outlook of an entrepreneur who lived here for 45 years, out of which 25 has been spent in the business environment.

One has to know that Mauritius does not have any right wing, left wing ; in fact we do not have any other wings, except probably chicken wings. Neither do we have republicans, democrats, socialists or other form of ideologies. Here the deal is simple: the government rules & manages the country’s affairs. This ensures continuity in strategy and governing philosophy.  It is one of the reasons that the island has kept a constant pace in its development and progress. Projects announced by one government is often implemented by the next. The Cybercity, Bagatelle dam, Metro (Light rail transport system) are all clear examples where the idea is developed by one team and then implemented by another.

Continuity is further expected since the current team in power is handling a second successive mandate. There will be no excuse or surprise discovery of financial corpses and hidden skulls left by a previous team. The population would normally stand to benefit – notice the word ‘normally’. In my opinion, the general elections are more an event than anything else. At the end of the day, we will all be busy with our respective occupations and continue life as usual; more so on an island where we believe that dealing with our frustration and disagreement on social media is sufficient.

The part of the population parading and celebrating the victory of their favorite party are now most docile citizens, happily conforming to their responsibilities, personal and professional. Those not happy with the results… well they are on Facebook.

Mauritians will not generally disturb the routine of a normal life by getting down to the streets, leading a strike, etc. We’ve got Facebook for that, I need to constantly remind it!

The recent and clear example is the alleged malpractices discovered during the general elections. Ballot papers where found outside voting centers, many voters could not vote because of wrong management of the electoral database and a couple of other incidents  could ignited a fire. But besides a petition in court, some civil movement and thousands of Facebook posts / comments … nothing else is expected to happen. So here we are now, at work, in our routine, taking life as we use to do. Nothing changed

Now that we have a newly formed cabinet in action. The country can, and will, move on. A couple of adjustments here and there, new ministers with new ideas and ambitions would probably bring their personal touch (and expertise, to a lesser level) in their respective fields. Many politically non-polluted or naive first-time ministers are still convinced the seat will not alter their modesty until they will eventually feel like surfing the waves just like any other counterpart; sooner or later. This applies to new Ministers, office bearers, political nominees and their relatives / close ones.

They are probably the only one acknowledging a  real change in life.

Well, so much to say that life is back to normal again. This is the real strength of Mauritius. Continuity.








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The Workers’ Rights Act (2019)

The Workers’ Rights Act (2019) overwrites the Employments Rights Act since 24th of October 2019. This new law has a few salient features that all employers need to be aware of.

A Portable Gratuity Scheme has also been introduced and proclaimed, coming into effect in January 2020. The percentage contribution by the employer is currently stated to be 4.8% but we expect private sector lobbies to hopefully bring it down to, at most, 4%.

Then are other such elements that bring a drastic change to the existing legal environment around employment.

The thirty remuneration orders that regulate specific sectors of the economy have been reviewed, but yet to be published and made accessible to enterprises/the public at large (hence our inability to elaborate on these in this blog). Note that a new remuneration order governing the ICT/BPO sector has also been introduced.

In order to help you understand the changes brought about in this new umbrella law (the Workers’ Rights Act), We will soon publish an extensive article on the main features.

Our team is at your disposal for any further information or clarification that you may require. Note that the new law carries a few grey areas, and we hope to have a stand on these after having attended briefing sessions scheduled shortly by competent bodies.

We also plan to host explanation and debate events around the subject. Should you wish to participate please drop us a line on

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The Self-Employed permit

Self-Employed Word Cloud ConceptThe Economic Development Board (EDB) manages different residency permits schemes, designed to attract foreign capital and expertise to Mauritius. Business-oriented permits, under the Occupation Permit scheme are declined in three (3) categories: Investor, Professional and Self-employed. We will focus, on a series of short articles, on the main aspect of the Self-employed permit.

Before digging into technicalities, let’s all understand one fundamental behind the strategy to attract foreign investment and expertise. The island didn’t open its door to increase population density and nor does Mauritius has an under-population issue. We need foreigners to contribute in a very precise way towards the economic development. So, if you do not have capital and/or expertise, Mauritius is not your ideal destination.

Back to it now. Each of the permit categories listed above has its own eligibility criteria and specific conditions to be observed. The Self-employed permit addresses the liberal profession in a wider perspective and therefore uses the personal professional attributes (qualifications) of the applicant as a base. In view of transforming the island into a center of excellence, it was crucial to devise a scheme that would appeal to experts in different sectors.

The self-employed appeals to those in liberal professions such as medical practitioners, legal experts (solicitors & barristers), accountants, consultants, etc. The scheme targets expertise and not ‘business-oriented’ units. If an application contains any element of business (trading, sales, etc.) it will be rejected straightaway. The business plan has to stay away from any ‘trading’ or ‘commercial’ component.

Under a Self-employed permit, one cannot hire / employ any party. True that this is a paradox because the holder cannot even hire a secretary for his operations. This condition is debatable but so far has remained intact.

The two basic conditions that lead to a Self-employed permit are:

  • Show an investment of USD35,000
  • Generate annual revenues of MUR600,000 for each of the first two years and thereafter MUR1,200,000 annually

The permit is for an initial period of three years, renewable thereafter, as long as the holder respects condition (b) above. In the even that the activity generates a minimum of MUR 3 million per year, for three consecutive years, the applicant can opt for a 10-year permit called the Permanent Residence (despite having nothing as ‘permanent’ in it)

How to apply?

The EDB operates an online system where the application is made and feedback communicated to applicant. This is mandatory.

Documents required for the online / physical application

  • Birth certificate
  • Marriage certificate
  • CV & copies of qualifications
  • Business plan with a 5-year financial forecast
  • Good quality passport photo
  • Passport bio-data page
  • At least two letters of intents from potential clients

All above documents are to be submitted in scan / softcopies through the online system.

On successful processing, an Approval in Principle is issued and following this, the applicant has 90 days to come to Mauritius and finalize his procedures, viz:

  • Registering his activity (obtain a Business Registration Card)
  • Undertake medical examinations
  • Opening of bank account and transfer of USD35,000
  • Arrange payment (either online or through banker’s cheque) to the Government of Mauritius (MUR20,000 for main applicant & MUR5,000 per dependent)
  • Present all original documents previously uploaded in hardcopy versions
  • Obtain appointment with the EDB for final meeting / collection of permit
  • On collection of main permit, dependents permits can be submitted. To be processed and delivered in around 15 working days.

Gibson & Hills can offer you a comprehensive range of services to cover all aspects of a Self-employed permit. This includes pre-application consulting and advice as to the best orientation to give your project. Our services cover application process, meeting with the authorities and clearing of any query that they may have.




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Relocation to Mauritius, the (untold) human side of things.

Relocation is not an easy process, despite what is claimed by many professionals and published in the beautiful media showroom. There are two basic angles to look at a relocation project; the technical side and the social side. It is fair to say that the authorities of the island and many so-called professional fails to give the required attention to the social element in a relocation project. We cannot invite foreigners to invest, work, retire or purchase property in Mauritius while completely ignoring the human side.

The different immigration schemes proposed by the island cannot be dissociated from social elements. First, because we are addressing ourselves to humans, encouraging them to move from an established life to an unknown one. In this process, the heads of families carry their families along which is morally heavy in terms of responsibility. While taking the decision to move to Mauritius, one must ensure for instance, that children are properly schooled (access to appropriate education system & cost thereof), that medical aids / system properly caters for the family needs, that the spouse does not get bored into a new life (yes, it counts a lot) or that the savings are invested in a safe & secure plan (compliant to law, regulations, sound business, etc.).

For many  professionals,

relocation is limited to filling forms & ticking out checklists.  

There is an apparent lack of human consideration from locals advising foreigners to settle-down in Mauritius. Well I would, to some extent, understand the authorities (they are not social or humanitarian instances) but I cannot tolerate professionals who, deliberately or not, avoid discussing the social / moral elements to their ‘clients’ before triggering the process.  The promotion campaigns are usually based political stability, social stability (yes !), tropical climate, etc. At the end of it, our proposal ‘better place to live and do business’ is addressed to humans.

The human factor cannot be bypassed.

I have seen a couple of cases where the relocation failed and whole families had to reinvent their lives, returning to their country; where they have very little (or nothing) left. I have also seen dramatic separations, one case of suicide and one death due to problems arising out of the relocation.

When a working couple decides to leave its country and settle-down in Mauritius, the main applicant gets a permit. If the spouse wants to engage in any activity, she/he must obtain her own permit (in many cases) and for this purpose, she is considered at the same level as any foreigner who wants to relocate to the island. A job opportunity would require, for example, that the person falls into a scarcity area (with regards to his/her expertise), and that the salary exceeds certain minima. It is quite logical and correct to impose such conditions as preserving the employment for Mauritius is a must. However, I believe that a central line should accommodate those already living on the island (spouses of permit holders, for instance).

The main applicant is usually someone who has already invested or providing his expertise to the Mauritian economy. We have the choice to leave his/her spouse idle, knowing that allowing him/her to engage in an activity would be beneficial to the country through tax, social contribution, foreign currency income or other means.

Allowing for the ‘idle’ spouse to engage into an occupation through a reduced set of conditions, based on the fact that he / she is already living on the island and idle, can help. In this case, it is not only the financial part but also the social part that plays an important role.

In two cases of divorce I’ve seen, it was the idleness and the human feeling of ‘uselessness’ that took over the spouses. The pressure of not being of any use led them to leave their families and continue their previous occupations, back in their countries. In both cases, they were qualified and competent people – they wouldn’t have hindered the chances of any local counterparts, anyway. One was a Spanish-speaking lady and was about to get a job as Spanish content developer – she couldn’t qualify for the self-employed because this activity did not require the USD35,000 investment – but the authorities had this box to tick and wouldn’t listen to anything else. She had clients ready with contracts…

Children, once they are 24, are no longer considered as ‘dependent’ and therefore are bound to either leave the country or find a stand-alone permit, which should fit in the available schemes (Investment, work…obviously not a retired permit). I agree that we cannot extend the dependent age more (it has been extended already from 18 to 24). However, I believe authorities could well look at cases where children above this age are totally dependent on their parents. If studying, they qualify for a student visa which lasts are long as they are into a full-time tertiary program. I’m rather speaking about those children having a dependency on their parents because of medical conditions and other handicaps. I’ve seen such cases receiving very little (next to nothing) attention.  I believe it will cost nothing that a different kind of consideration be given to such cases.

Many foreigners having invested or working on the island are walking on tight ropes. The stress of renewing permits is like the sword on every family.

Tight-ropeTrue that the conditions are stated at the very beginning and the fact that permits (which are normally on 3-year series) can only be renewed if the conditions are respected. After all, we all know that Mauritius applies a selective immigration strategy. However, it would be more appropriate that renewals are given additional consideration if holders encountered difficulties beyond their control. The most brilliant business ideas remain ideas and their suitability cannot be ascertained unless one takes the plunge. The reality is very often different to the business plan (which is submitted initially for residency permit process). There are underlying factors that many foreigners investing in the country are not aware (or made aware) of; human resources behavior & cultural specificity, access to finance & conditions, trade delimitation, business culture, etc.

So, it is not an exact science and nothing on the business plan is guaranteed to happen precisely as planned. After three years of Investor permit, it may happen that the business fails to generate the required turnover and the reasons may be diverse.

The turnover criteria should not be the only factor taken into consideration for a proedurerenewal. Business cannot be limited to a turnover criterion. The authorities should be able to listen to renewal applicants and consider any factor which may have hindered the strict observance of the rules. Probably, an option would be to create a scorecard with a mix of elements such as turnover, tax paid, employment, effective investment, etc.  It is not human to just reject a renewal and impose a ‘return to your country within one month’ condition. This implies closing the business, disposing of assets, removing kids from school, cancelling insurance policies, cancelling rent agreements and taking by deposits…and so many other things. Above all, it means ‘back to square 1 in our country’ – after probably three years of efforts and spending.

It would require quite a voluminous book to contain all the dramas I have witnessed over the years. Many of them could have been avoided easily. Unfortunately, the mindset of many are formatted into an academic frame, probably originating from our education system. Once the situation falls out of this frame, everyone seems to lose their mind. The role of most officers is to tick boxes and if they can’t then there’s no other way around.

consulting-consultantMany professionals deliberately omit to show these realities to ‘potential client’ in the fear of losing a deal. I’ve been told to ‘shut up’ many times by fellow consultants operating in the same field. Others have blamed me of discouraging foreigners to settle-down on the island.

Let’s face the realities on the ground. Mauritius is an ideal location for business or life but that does not mean that it is a 100% hassle-free destination. We need to acknowledge the dark spots and work accordingly. Those making the decision to relocate to Mauritius have the right to information, raw and real.

Relocation cannot be limited to ‘money’, the human factor is at the center of it and cannot be overseen.













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The Mauritian Experience, How not to fail it (Part 3 – Officers are not Gods)

Following comments and feedback received on various media (mostly social media) and also from personal experience, I thought about coming up with this article. The contents may not be to the liking of many, mostly some officers on high chairs in some cozy offices in Port Louis. Certain things have to be said, written or expressed, in the interest of a wider population; in this case in the interest of a whole country. I have been frustrated a couple of times because of this situation, almost looking like an incompetent without any clue of the rules in areas within which I’ve been practicing for the past 25 years.

The problem is the tip of the iceberg. It hides a whole system that may crumble because it is rotten at the root. I am referring to the numerous occasions where people have been misled through wrong advice / information given to them by civil service officers. This is now happening too frequently to be pushed under the carpet.

Those who are most affected are foreigners who are relocating to Mauritius.

As in every civilized and developed country, the word of an officer is sacred, even more when you are new to the country and not very familiar with the laws. One would tend to trust an officer and keep him in high regards, going as far as challenging people (like me) who provide information which are contradictory to those of the officer.

Unfortunately, there’s a common phenomenon these days. Not all officers master their respective areas and this has different reasons, which I would not want to dwell into this article. I prefer giving concrete examples to demonstrate the situation and the chaos that it has started to create.

Tourist visa / Business visa

Dependents of any work or occupation permit holders can enter Mauritius through a Tourist visa and from there apply for their residence permits. A couple of people in such situations have revealed that Immigration Officers on arrival point at the airport insisted that the Law requires Business visa and imposed same on the spouse & children. The major constraint here is that a Business visa is for a maximum of 90 days (120 days in total if spread over 2 visits). A Tourist visa allows, on the other side, for 180 days in a year – giving the family quite a time margin to complete their procedures.

The following categories of persons can come on Tourist visa to complete their procedures: Main applicants & dependents under Non-Citizens Retired Residence Permit AND dependents of any other holder of work / residence permits.


Tourism License: Trade v/s trade premises, a concrete example

The Tourism Authority, I’m now fully convinced, is one the most pretentious and backward authorities on the island. It runs on a complete opacity, very often depends on the mood of the day of the officers. They can impose conditions on your business or legal structure, threatening to reject permit applications if they are not obeyed. And this, despite complete lack of sense and legal evidence. Any request to them to support their claim through legal reference gets ignored bluntly. They are not losing anything, they sit quietly and eat tax payers money. They wait for you to bend under the pressure because you can’t operate without license and they won’t give any until you blindly obey to their conditions.

A concrete example: a non-Mauritian acquires a commercial building classified under RES (a restaurant) through approval (and certificate) from the Economic Development Board (EDB). A separate legal structure is created to operate a restaurant under these premises. Separating the property structure from the business structure is quite a normal and wise practice.

The Tourism Authority approves the initial license and the restaurant starts operations. After one year, on renewal, the Tourism Authority imposes a chance in shareholding in the property company requesting that one of the spouses be removed as shareholder from it!

  1. The Tourism Authority has no jurisdiction on the property and its ownership. This has already been approved by the competent authority, EDB. The authority had no reply when asked whether they have jurisdiction to ask the powerful owners of shopping malls to disclose and change their shareholdings (they also host restaurants). No answer.


  1. The Tourism Authority further requested that a double license be paid, one for the business structure and the other for the property structure. There cannot be a double license for one and same business! This would mean that two restaurants can operate under one premises.


  1. When asked for legal reference with regards to their claims, there’s a complete and dark silence… for months. Up to today, no reply. The buyers have purchased the property and the business for MUR28 million and are now sitting and waiting the Tourism Authority. With such invested, these persons are not able to operate their business and will sooner or later accede to the conditions of the Tourism Authority.

This is a blatant example of unfair use of authority and power – a COMPLETELY ILLEGAL stance.

This case is not the single one. Many operators within the tourism industry have experienced similar situations.

Self-employed shareholding

One of my clients literally accused me of not knowing my stuff because I didn’t disclose shareholding of a self-employed structure to the EDB. He was requested to provide this information by an Assistant Manager of the authority. When an officer, at such level and from such an authority, insist on a requirement you cannot but trust he is right. He isn’t. A self-employed structure, by definition, is not separate from its owner who is a single person. My nerves were seriously put to test. I had to: first, convince the officer that his request was nonsense and second, to convince my client that an officer of that rank was wrong and… I was right.

There are many instances which forced me to write this article. The idea is not to hurt some of the officers but to inform people that sitting behind a desk does not necessarily mean being 100% perfect. No, being an officer does not mean being God and your words are not that of the Gospel.

Training is, in my opinion, the issue. Some posts require training, both on the ground and in the background (laws, rules, regulations, …. common sense) prior to operation.

This is essential before someone can pretend ability to dispense advice. It took me at least 5 years of training before my first boss could put me forward to assist clients in basic procedures. Today it takes 1 week to get someone hired and the next day he’s giving life-impacting advice to people relocating to Mauritius.


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The Mauritian Experience, How not to fail it (Part 2 – This is not the third world)

The first episode in this series earned us a lot of reactions on different social media platforms. We’re glad it reached such a big audience and triggered many interesting contributions. As usual the idea was not to write fairy-tale type of articles for comfort reading.

Some days ago, someone who curiously seemed inspired by our Part 1 article (The Road Kills), claimed everything was pink on the island and that the roads are safe. The article was written very clearly by an author probably living in fairy tale-candy-marsh-mallow type world. With a pseudo like ‘Mermaid’ I can only deduce that. Anyways.

I have seen so many foreigners settling-down in Mauritius and failing it because of their wrong attitude towards the country and its people.

Understand one basic underlying fact: We are not a backward, under developed country with scarcity of grey matter. You are not an alien with advanced knowledge and/or technology and you are not landing here to educate anybody or conquer anything. If you have this mindset, you won’t last long – unless you derive a sadistic pleasure in inflicting pain and frustration to yourself.

Foreigners are welcomed on the island. Mauritians are known for their warmth and their culture of hospitality. In the early days, agriculture was the main pillar of the economy with sugarcane as the leading economic sector. All the plantations and mills belonged to people of European origin (mostly French). Many households could sustain a living through income derived as laborer’s, factory workers and similar activity – the management always being held by European-origin people. This did not affect the social demographics because it was a generally accepted fact the Asian-origin people were not as competent in administration & management as the European-origin counterparts.

Despite the history of slavery and indentured laborer, our ancestors kept to their roles and worked hard. I remember my grandparents always referring to their ‘employers’ as ‘almost-Gods’ and always referred to them as ‘Missier’ (or Mister) in any conversation. I’m not being a racist here, but ‘white skin’ people earned their respect. This respect showed by my grandparents was transmitted to my parents.

My parents did not experience the same intensity of respect because they were not employed in the same industry – Mauritius started by that time to develop other sectors. From my parents to me, the values were not passed because at this time the concept of equality started to flow around. The country gained independence in 1968 and a nation was building up. There came free education and access to other employment opportunities (public sector, for instance).

In the 80s tourism was introduced. Again, the first tourists were white-skinned people flying down mostly from Europe. The respect and admiration came in again because they were the ones able to pay air-fare and afford stay in ‘concrete and modern’ buildings (most of us were living in thatched roofs and iron sheets houses). They were seen as ‘successful’ people having acquired means to travel by air, while having a motorized vehicle was impossible for most of us. The perception of respect took a second breath and our culture of hospitality also kicked-in, turning our tourism industry into massive success. This is a bit how ‘culturally’ we were tuned to accepting that foreigners can contribute to the progress of the island. From sugarcane to tourism, it was proven,

With the introduction of the manufacturing sector; textiles mostly – the social configuration took an upturn. For the first time, our ladies were out to work and earn salaries in a ‘covered workspace’ and were not just helping hands in manual works for their husbands. The purchasing power increased and was supported by new dynamism in commerce. Courts Mammouth, the first hire-purchase shop landed in Mauritius and people started getting access to modern consumer products; color TV, video players, washing machines, HI-FI sound systems…. (I witnessed the change from Black & White TV to a color one and I can tell you that was a revolution). This was the first economic revolution,

Our youngsters could afford traveling by plane (it still was difficult, but accessible) and many of them traveled to big cities for advanced education. The wealth building process was working to its best.

Successfully shifting from a mono-crop agriculture economy to tourism and thereafter tackling our own ‘industrial revolution’ played a very positive role in building the entrepreneurial mindset of Mauritians. We believed in ourselves. From then, the progress continued and continues. We are now talking about cyberisland, world-class financial service industry, the best commercial port of the region, you name it, Mauritius is always building something new every year. One of our strengths is that successive governments have always kept the same direction, that of modernization of the island and its transformation into a hub of excellence in whatever it undertakes. We have not reached this point yet, but many are working towards it, for decades.

(In a previous article I did mention that many among us have developed a culture of arrogance and feel the world is rushing to our feet. Unfortunately, these are the ones hindering the marvelous culture of hard work and progress that Mauritius is generally about. Without them, we would have been much further in our development. Not afraid to say many of these hindrances are spoilt brats that have inherited from the sweat of others, their parents particularly. They do not know the value of ‘work’).

We wouldn’t be able to achieve any of these without the participation of foreigners. This is the reason, at the base, we understand that foreign participation is important to our development. On the other side, we also reckon that we have built up a nation of educated, trained and skilled people who can stand on their feet. Foreign contribution is now viewed as ‘partnership’ rather than a need in itself. We are not surprised to see demonstration against ‘new hotel projects’ (for example) – it is not only about losing access to public beach, it is more about the ‘conquering’ attitude of certain foreign promoters. The cultural behavior towards foreigners has shifted from benefactors to partnership, with equality as base. Previous generations didn’t feel equal because probably of lack of education, means and track record. Current generations have it all, almost.

A foreigner relocating to Mauritius is no longer an alien with super-powers. He is still needed, but again, as partner to the economic drive. Mauritius can afford a selective immigration strategy exactly because we can now afford choose our partners. The island is not a refugee camp that is obliged to every foreigner who wishes to settle-down here.

It is not because the political situation in South African is uncertain that Mauritius has the duty to accept every South African. This is in reply to someone who thought we were not doing enough to facilitate immigration process.

Basically, in this second article of the series ‘The Mauritian Experience, how not to fail it’ we wanted to highlight the shift in culture in a fast-moving country.

A foreigner might not necessarily understand the different layers of behavior and it remains our duty, as natives & relocation professionals, to highlight these points. Foreign professionals who claim to be experts in Mauritian life might not have such ‘backstage knowledge’ because these are not learned in books but lived in real-life !

Setting-up Business

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Tribulations of an Investor in Mauritius

This article was published in the News of Sunday edition of 12 October 2018. Some of the readers have requested an online version, so here it is. Enjoy the read and send your comments and questions. 

By constantly repeating that Mauritius is world hub (for different sectors), many officers and key players seem to have been seduced by their own words. Thinking that this island is the center of the world and that people are racing to come and live here is a mistake. It serves no purpose to do road shows or participate in international salons if authorities maintain their pretentious attitude towards those who finally land here with a view to investing or electing domicile. The abusive use of words such as ‘hub’, ‘centre of excellence’, ‘world class’ should stop until we realize that we have not reached that point yet and that a constant effort is needed, by all parties, private or public.

The first point that authorities dealing with foreign investment and expertise should grasp well is that local professionals are not their competitors but their team players on a global scale, The idea of attracting FDI is first and foremost the creation of wealth through business, employment and economic dynamism in general. At the very base, it somehow means providing business to local professionals. But then, how do we interpret the message when a government website clearly discourages foreign investors from using local consultants? It just demonstrates that some do not really understand the game.

The foreign investor who chooses Mauritius as a business destination is very often (and very soon) confronted to a different reality. There are so many reasons that leads him to frustration and discouragement. Many have abandoned their projects and left the country with a very sour after-taste.

The first obstacle are institutions which have been entrusted with the duty to ‘facilitate’ foreign investment. Many of their officers visibly do not understand the basic strategy and objective of attracting foreign capital and expertise. The investor finds himself sitting in an interrogatory position, with questions from officers who do not understand the fundamentals of business. How do you react when asked to decline the identity of your shareholders when you are in a self-employed activity. By definition, a self-employed does not have a company, he is himself the business. The poor person attempted to answer, but faced an overly pretentious attitude from the officer. There are cases where officers do not understand the scope of intervention of their institution. Companies are requested to ‘amend their shareholding structures’ by an authority having no jurisdiction whatsoever on the business operated by those companies. A knife under the throat, with a clear deadline imposed. No reasons provided. The authority loses its faculty to reply when legal reference and substance behind their request is questioned.

Another example is those officers claiming to operate ‘under their own style’. They request documents in content and form not listed on official checklists and guidelines. Don’t even think to raise the point to the officer. It may result in a ‘refusal’ letter with no explanation whatsoever.

There are different authorities that act in an opposite manner to what is prophesied by the government. The officers believe they hold the key to the island and it increasingly feels that some derive a sadistic pleasure in turning down business applications from foreigners. There will be progress at this level once we understand that Mauritius is in fact in the middle of nowhere, we are not a buzzing metropolis (we are still struggling to have a metro line). We have a limited market, limited infrastructure and limited resources. We still need to realize our ambitions, but we are not there yet.

Unfortunately, the problem lies not only with the authorities. Some major private players also seem to have lost the plot. Banks.  Average onboarding procedures takes between 4 to 6 weeks for a business bank account, Maximum number of days a foreigner can spend on the island under business visa is 120 days. Bank account opening is an opaque procedure where feedback seldom circulates back to the applicant. Often it is a one-way (and very frustrating) process where during several weeks the applicant is called to provide ‘additional documents’ in the form and content imposed by the bank officer – but no feedback is provided from the bank.

Within the 120 an investor must register his company, open the bank account, transfer his funds and only then is he able apply for residency permits. Mission impossible. No one seem to understand the risks that the investor bears while investing in a foreign land. He barely has the time to evaluate all the aspects of his project; local competence, available workforce mass, technical & financial feasibility, market and so on.  On expiry of the 120 days, there is no other choice than to leave the country and return next year. No one seem to understand this challenge, this race against time. Yet we are all shouting on our roofs that Mauritius is a business place and we feel utterly satisfied.

The tribulations of an investor choosing Mauritius for his projects are many. It would require probably a 200 page to contain everything but still, it all stems up from the wrong attitude Mauritian players have adopted and are still maintaining. No crowd is racing to our island, this is reality. Of course, we cannot afford to leave our doors wide open – but then we owe the duty to communicate our objectives in a clear and concise manner. Once for all procedures should be defined and a coherence maintained, both in the administration and in the mindset of administrators.







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